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

Monday, March 31, 2014

Welcome Mikey Brooks and his new book, The Stone of Valhalla



Welcome to The Stone of Valhalla Blog Tour!
A middle-grade fantasy-adventure by Mikey Brooks.

Don’t forget to check out the GIVEAWAY at the bottom this post
for a chance to WIN a $25 Amazon Gift card and other great prizes!

Synopsis:

Aaron was chosen to save their world, but it might come at the cost of losing his own.

Breaking into an old lady’s basement was supposed to reward 13-year-old Aaron with new friends. Instead he finds an enchanted amulet that transports him to another world—one at war with magic. Before he knows it, he is accused of witchcraft and invited to a bonfire—where he’s the main attraction. If that’s not bad enough, a goblin army shows up and toasts the town...literally. The good news: Aaron escapes being charbroiled. The bad news: the goblins are after him. They want his amulet and will stop at nothing to get it. Battling to find his way home, Aaron teams up with a not-so-magical-wizard and learns it’s his fate to destroy the amulet and save this new world. But is he willing to sacrifice his own?
Check out what these talented authors are saying about it:

The Stone of Valhalla is one of those books that only comes along once in a great while. Brooks doesn't just create a world, he puts you inside of it, allowing you to experience the wonder in a way that only he can. His characters are likable and fun. His twists leave you asking ‘Why?’ Treat yourself to an exciting adventure through a beautiful new land. Make new friends and be a part of the magic. This is a book that you will not be able to put down!”
—J.R. Simmons, author of Ragesong: Awakening.

 The Stone of Valhalla drew me in from the get-go. Aaron’s journey is reminiscent of Dorothy’s trek in The Wizard of Oz. Magic, sword fights, danger, and more danger, sprinkled with humor and unexpected twists. This is one of the ‘best’ fantasy adventures I’ve ever experienced!”
—BBH McChiller, author of The Monster Moon Series.

The Stone of Valhalla is a riveting mystery revealing true friendship, loyalty and sacrifice. Brooks engages the curiosity of middle graders and older sleuths alike, until the very end. Fantastic!”
—L.R.W. Lee, author of The Andy Smithson series.

Excerpt From: Chapter Two: The Penalty of Witchcraft

Aaron thought he’d been transported to some kind of renaissance fair. People milled about in the street, all dressed like they belonged on the set of some medieval movie. Most of their faces were stained with dirt, and they wore soiled clothing. Large, wooden buildings, held together by plaster, loomed overhead and all around him. Some had signs announcing specific trades and goods. The sweet smell of bread came from one shop, clearly a bakery. A rotund man stood out front, arguing with an old man who had a silvery- white beard and a long, purple cloak. He was telling the baker that the rolls he had purchased tasted ‘day-old’ and he required a reimbursement.
Several passersby gave Aaron odd glances. One little girl with a group of women dressed like nuns pointed at him and giggled. He thought he heard her call him a buffoon, but she was quickly shushed by one of the women and pulled into a shop.
This is so unreal.
Aaron couldn’t figure out what had happened.
How did I get here? Who are these people?
Aaron waited for someone to jump out and yell, “Surprise, you’re on camera!”
It never happened.
The seconds drew on like hours, and Aaron stood unmoving like a statue in the middle of the dirt road. The sweet smell from the bakery was drowned by the stench of a sweaty mule pulling a cart packed full with what had to be manure. The wind blew and the wafting smell of poo filled Aaron’s nose. He coughed and tried to cover the reek with his shirt.
“Witchcraft! Witchcraft, I say!”
Aaron turned around to see a middle-aged woman with only three teeth shouting hysterically. She pointed directly at him. He looked over his shoulder to ensure no green-skinned, broom-commandeering, warty-faced lady in black stood beside him. There wasn’t anyone there. The noise on the street stopped dead except for the woman. She grabbed a small wooden crate from a cart filled with fresh flowers and stood on it. “Fetch the constable! Don’t let him get away, or he’ll set a curse on our town.”
Five large men formed a group behind the woman and advanced toward Aaron. He didn’t know what to do.

Where to Find The Stone of Valhalla:
Exclusive price for the eBook release is just $2.99! (List Price: $4.99)
And only $9.99 for the paperback! (List Price: $12.99)
On April 12th 2014 the price will return to the List Price


Another special offer:
During The Stone of Valhalla Blog Tour
Mikey’s other great middle-grade eBooks will also be set to the low price of just $0.99!
The Dream Keeper:
Kindle | Nook | Kobo
The Dreamstone:
Kindle | Nook | Kobo

You’re Invited to PARTY!!
The online launch party will take place on Thursday, April 10th at 4pm (MST). The party will run for 2 hours and you’re invited to drop by anytime. The longer you stay the more chances you have of winning prizes! We have slew of eBooks to giveaway, as well as a Stone of Valhalla necklace AND a $25 Amazon gift card! It is hosted by LovingtheBookLaunchParty on Facebook. Just follow this link to join the event: http://goo.gl/Q2Fd3r.

What’s that? Another Party!
That’s right! If you’re local to Utah you don’t want to miss this kickin’ party. We are having a launch party to celebrate the release of this awesome new book. Of course there will be plenty of giveaways there too, but what’s even better are the guest authors! Just check out these fabulous names: J. Scott Savage, Chad Morris, Lisa Mangum, Jenni James, Ali Cross, and many more. The Launch Party is: Friday, April 11th from 6-9pm at The Viridian Center in West Jordan, Utah. Follow this link for a map: http://goo.gl/dqVc0u

About Mikey Brooks:

Mikey is a small child masquerading as an adult. On occasion you’ll catch him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is the author/illustrator of several books including the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures and Bean’s Dragons as well as the middle-grade fantasy-adventure series The Dream Keeper Chronicles. His art can be seen in many forms from picture books to full room murals. He loves to daydream with his three daughters and explore the worlds that only the imagination of children can create. Mikey has a BS degree in English from Utah State University and works fulltime as a freelance illustrator, cover designer, and author. As a member of the Emblazoners, he is one of many authors devoted to ‘writing stories on the hearts of children’. He is also one of the hosts of the Authors’ Think Tank Podcast. You can find more about him and his books at: http://www.insidemikeysworld.com/.

The Giveaways!

Enter the giveaway below to be entered to win one of the following prizes:

$25 Amazon Gift Card
The Stone of Valhalla Necklace
Autographed Paperback of The Stone of Valhalla
Autographed 11x17 Poster
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Thursday Recipe - Filboyd Studge

The time has come to share an old family classic with you. I need to give you the context for this recipe first or else it won't make much sense.

My mom was very much a dump-and-stir cook - you dumped stuff into the bowl or pan and stirred it until it looked right. If it didn't taste right, you dumped more stuff in. It didn't have to look good, it just had to taste okay. One of these days I'll have to post the story of the beef heart to illustrate. Today, we're talking about Filboyd Studge.

My brother named this dish. I still have no idea why he named it Filboyd Studge, but the name stuck. This dish looks horrid. It's a pasty gray mush that's sticky, gloopy, and just nasty looking, but it tastes good. It's very filling and good for those dreary cold winter days, just don't expect it to look appetizing.

Back to my mom. I have eight siblings. My mom was trying to feed a horde on a tight budget and she managed quite well. She used what leftovers my brothers left in the fridge. She could stretch a pot of soup farther than you'd believe possible. She made bread from scratch several times a week. But she wasn't Betty Crocker. She made cheap dishes without recipes.

My mom's still around but she's a different kind of cook since she's only feeding herself and my dad these days. But I'll always remember the huge kitchen table that my dad made so we could all fit around it, laminated so it was easy to clean, and my mom's pot of Filboyd Studge and our jokes about which subterranean cave wall she scraped it from.

If any of my siblings are reading this, I'd love comments with your memories of this dish - how it got named, anything I may have missed in the recipe, that kind of thing. I never actually made this one so I'm going on old memories and guessing.

Filboyd Studge

Whatever's left of the beef roast from Sunday dinner, usually about a cup, chopped up (she seasoned it with mostly salt, pepper, worcestershire sauce, sage, onions, and maybe garlic or oregano on adventurous days)
Whatever's left of the gravy, usually less than a cup
4-6 carrots, sliced, don't bother peeling them, they look more rustic unpeeled
half an onion (bonus points if you get the Terry Pratchett reference), chopped up
around 2 c. pearl barley
salt, I'm guessing a couple of teaspoons
pepper, some? Just season it to taste
a couple of bay leaves

Dump everything in a large pot. Add enough water to cover everything. Put on the lid and cook it on low for several hours. Stir it every once in a while and add more water if it starts sticking to the bottom of the pot. When everything becomes a sort of sticky mass and the carrots are beginning to dissolve into the mush, add salt and pepper to taste if needed, then serve. If you're feeling like a gourmet chef, you can remove the bay leaves and sprinkle some parsley over the top to make it look pretty.

Serve with hunks of homemade whole wheat bread.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Home Improvement, Again

I didn't want to rip out my bedroom and bathroom. With everything else going on in my life, I didn't need the extra stress, chaos, and work. But, the shower was leaking through the downstairs ceiling and I'm certain the carpet was starting to gain sentience. And, most important, our contractor neighbor who did my kitchen a year and a bit ago was available.

So we tore out the bedroom and bathroom. My sons took a sledgehammer to the tiled hole-in-the-wall shower left over from the 70s that was designed for short people. We took saws and hammers to the closet and tore that out, too. The popcorn ceiling came down.

It's half back together and looking much better. My husband and I have had our share of heated conversations regarding wall colors, the style of the new vanity, what we're replacing the closet with, and other design decisions. We didn't argue over the new shower surround (it's awesome - http://www.whitewaterinc.com/available-colors.php#tyvarianseries1 it's Ambrosia on the second row down, click for a big picture) or moving the shower head up a foot. He let me pick the carpet and linoleum (which was no fun, all carpet colors in style now are either grayed out or shades of poo; all vinyl flooring looks like fake stone or wood, what happened to the flower tile patterns?).

So we're waiting on insurance at this point, since the subfloor was much more damaged than we originally thought. And waiting for things to come together is hard. I'm tired of living out of boxes in the basement and sleeping on a mattress on the floor. I'm tired of the chaos and stacks of things in other rooms.

And I can't wait to see the finished room come together.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday Recipe - Magic Custard Pie

We got chickens last fall. They're interesting creatures. My son calls them mini-velociraptors. I've learned a lot about them. For instance, they lay fewer eggs during the winter. A lot fewer. We were only getting 1 - 3 eggs a day from the seven birds. But as soon as the weather got warmer, BAM! We're getting 5 - 7 eggs a day now.

So, I'm looking in the fridge the other day and realize I've got almost four dozen eggs and a gallon of milk past its expiration date. (cue the They Might Be Giants song) I put out a call for suggestions on Facebook and got some great responses. Some worked great, some weren't so great. This recipe was a good one. I need to do some more tweaks on it, though.

Magic Crust Custard Pie

1/4 c. butter
4 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
1/8 t. salt
2 c. milk
2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. flour

Put everything in the blender. Blend on low until mixed. Pour into a greased pie pan. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Let cool before devouring.

Variations:
Add 1/2 t. rum flavoring and 1 t. nutmeg for an eggnog flavor
Use brown sugar for more of a caramel flavor
Add 1/2 t. coconut extract and stir in 1/2 c. flaked coconut
Add in spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger to taste

I need to mess with the recipe to come up with a chocolate version. Stay tuned...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Enjoy classic elves? Check out these books...

I met Anna del C. Dye years ago at LTUE, a local writing conference. She's a very sweet woman with a lovely accent. She tells her story of reading Tolkien then asking, "But what happens to the elves? I want to learn more about them." So she started writing her own tales about elves. She just released a new book in the series: The Roilden Stones of Elf Mountain.

Check out the description:

Liberty … or Monarchy? Should the wisest of races choose such a path, or return to the traditional council? Their queen has lost the Roilden Stones of Elf Mountain to a power-hungry wizard. After all, one can be deceived, but twenty?
With the stones missing, a fatal drought grips Andoriah, the new elfin home. Death to all is imminent. Who will retrieve the Stones when the Gold Elfs won’t act? Will heroes arise before Andoriah burns in eternal fire? Can the missing elf queen and her daughter be found?

The Roilden Stones of Elf Mountain is the long awaited prequel, and final installment in Anna del C.’s elf series. Discover the Elfs, an eternal race who chose to live in a world of woes away from their motherland. Love them, feel their pain and their happiness in a land that will test the core of their beliefs and bravery. Written in the genre of The Lord of the Rings and the Shannara series, The Roilden Stones of Elf Mountain comes alive with battles, heroism, action and romance.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thursday Recipe - Taco Seasoning

Remember a few months back when I found an onion soup mix that made great dip mix and meat seasoning? Well it came with another recipe for taco seasoning. I mixed up a batch of it so we could see if it works. My kids are on a taco kick right now. Taco meat is their favorite. And since they can cook it themselves and everyone chooses what to include on their taco, it's an easy dinner for me.

Try it out and let me know if you find any good tweaks for this one.

Taco Seasoning

2/3 c. dried minced onion
3 T. chili powder
2 T. cumin
1 T. garlic salt
1 T. paprika
1 t. dried ground cayenne pepper

Mix everything in a small food processor. Store in an airtight container.

Taco Meat

1 lb hamburger
2-3 T. taco seasoning
1 16-oz can tomatoes, whatever kind you like
1 4-oz can green chilies
1 16-oz can black beans

Brown hamburger and drain grease. Stir in everything else. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes until thickened. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve with taco fixings:
corn or flour tortillas, or corn chips
shredded cheese
canned corn
canned kidney beans or other beans
salsa
sour cream
guacomole
jalapeƱos
chopped green onions
sliced olives
shredded lettuce
chopped tomatoes

Monday, March 10, 2014

Roadkill Cats

I saw a cat splayed out on the side of the road on my way to work Tuesday morning. It was still there Saturday morning. I thought, how sad for that poor cat; hit by a car and left lying on the side of the road. If it isn't there tomorrow morning, I'll wonder what happened over the weekend.

Maybe it was cleaned up by animal control or the people who live in the house nearby. Maybe they gave it a short service and buried it under a tree in the yard. Maybe they wrapped it in expensive cloth and spices and rubbed it with oils and in four thousand years, some archaeologist will dig it up and decide that we worshipped cats and this one was mummified because it was special.

Maybe it was eaten by coyotes or raccoons. Perhaps they developed a massive case of indigestion and threw up in some person's garage where their dog ate it again. Then the dog threw up in the basement and now the dead cat is a giant twice-regurgitated hairball that will transform into a creeping mass of putrescent evil that will crawl up through the floorboards some night and suck their brains out of their eye sockets.

Or perhaps the cat is risen from the dead, transformed into a creature of the night who feasts upon the flesh and blood of the living. Dracu-cat lives!

Maybe it will flatten out into a shape that resembles to 'plus' signs - ++ - head out one side, tail out the other, and two legs pointing out on each side. Then when it's flat enough and dry enough, you could peel it up and use it as a sail-cat. Give it a spin of the wrist and send it flying through the air like a frisbee. This is one way to remember that cations are positive and anions are negative. Cations make sailcats that look like plusses. Anions are evil, like onions and ogres. They have layers.

I think I need more sleep and fewer roadkill cats.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thursday Recipe - Leprechaun Special

Jaclyn Weist is releasing a second book in her leprechaun series. They sound like a lot of fun. Check them out and enter to win some fun prizes by answering some trivia questions.

Anyone who leaves me a comment with their favorite Irish/St. Patty's Day recipe will be entered to win a lovely crocheted Cthulhu cat toy made by yours truly. That contest will end when my next Thursday post goes live so you have a week to leave your recipe. Cthulhu doesn't have anything to do with St. Patty's Day or Leprechauns or Ireland except he's usually green and I happen to have a lovely cat toy (in black) looking for a good home.

My husband spent two years in Ireland before we met. He says Irish food is basically bland - boiled vegetables like cabbage and potatoes and sometimes a roast of lamb or mutton seasoned with salt and pepper. The whole corned beef dinner idea is Irish American. But one thing Ireland has that just isn't as good here are Cadbury chocolates. So here's my recipe: Take three Cadbury Creme Eggs. Hide in the closet with all the doors shut. Eat all three in an ecstasy of chocolate and sugar overload before the kids discover you have them.

And just for stopping by today, you have won a free copy of Nexus Point, my science fiction adventure book. Go to https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/10672 and use coupon code AA47G to download the ebook in your choice of formats.

Now on to Jaclyn's post about her book:
Twist of Luck Blog Tour



Every day a different blog will post a question. When you find the answer, send an email to me at:   jaclynweist@gmail.com

I will draw a winner each day from those that got it correct. You can find the answers on Wikipedia.


(And for the trivia question below, I'm contributing an itty bitty cuddly crocheted cthulhu in green.)

The answers will also be posted the next day on the next post in the tour, along with the next trivia question. Some questions deal with colors of the rainbow. Other questions deal with leprechauns. 

And, of course, at the end of the rainbow, there's a pot of gold. In that pot of gold will be an Amazon gift card! Those that answer questions by sending me an email will be entered to win the gift card on the last day.

And don't forget to purchase a copy of book one, Stolen Luck. The great news is that it's $.99 right now! That link is here



Good luck!!


Yesterday's Answer:

My favorite color is Yellow

Today's Question:

What is Ireland's nickname?


About Twist of Luck: 

Megan finally has her luck back and hopes that life will return to normal. Unfortunately, the magical world has other plans. Suddenly, she find she has fairies following her to provide security, dragons become a constant threat, and an imp tracks her every move. As if that wasn’t enough, her luck begins to manifest itself in ways she could never imagine.

About Jaclyn:

Jaclyn is an Idaho farm girl who grew up loving to read. She developed a love for writing as a senior in high school, when her dad jokingly said she was the next Dr. Seuss (not even close but very sweet). She met her husband, Steve at BYU and they have six happy, crazy children that encourage her writing. After owning a bookstore and running away to have adventures in Australia, they settled back down in their home in Utah. Jaclyn now spends her days herding her kids to various activities and trying to remember what she was supposed to do next.


Find the answer and tomorrow's question at:


www.donnakweaver.com

Monday, March 3, 2014

On giant spiders and storytelling

Please welcome Frances Pauli to the Far Edge of Normal. She's been a guest several times, mostly because she writes such awesome stories, but she also comes up with some of the most interesting ideas for her plots. She also has a thing for spiders. I'm not going to adopt those pets from her like I did the zombie frogs that WILL NOT DIE. (Yes, they're still alive and doing better than ever. They thrive on neglect and random feedings.)

Here's her take on writing about spiders:

I have a secret love for bad horror movies. Not the slasher flick, killer in the house, scary phone call kind, though. Those terrify me to death! No, I like the genetically mutated, alien, toxic spill poisoned giant animal sort. I like the rampaging ants and killer rabbits the size of houses. Basically, monster movies. 
I'm not ashamed to admit it. I can get on board with sharks coming out of volcanoes.
The phony stuff doesn't scare me, you see. I can sleep just fine after two hours of giant ants. Anaconda doesn't frighten me. Eight Legged Freaks makes me giggle, and Night of the Lepus...bring it on! But add some heavy-breathing psycho with a facemask and I'm out of there...as fast as possible. I'll also probably have nightmares. Campy, cheesy, and full of gargantuan animals, however, is a recipe for great fun. 
Unfortunately, I love spiders way too much to make them the villains in my own story. 
Well, once upon a time I was the world's largest arachnophobe. I ran screaming from the tiniest eight-legged beastie, usually with a resounding echo of "kill it, kill it, kill it!" Shameful of me, I know, but they gave me the bona fide "willies." 
I had to be held down to watch Arachnophobia. I could teleport across large rooms when necessary, and once, I think I actually passed through a door to escape a wicked wee spider. 
So how is it that I ended up writing a web serial featuring giant spiders as protagonists? The good guys? Somewhere along the line I fell in love with spiders. It had a lot to do with working in the pet trade...and even more to do with this guy
You might be thinking that he must have been really cute, and you'd be right. But as cute as he was...the Pinktoe spiderlings he was hawking were way cuter. No lie. The Pinktoe tarantula is by far the sweetest member of the arachnid world. They have big pink toes, like ballet slippers, and there is just something completely cocker-spaniel-esque about them. 
I still resisted. When all the other pet store employees purchased little plastic boxes of Pinktoes, I cringed and stuck my nose in the air. When their baby spiders spun amazing, complex tube webs and platforms, I peeked, sniffed, and went back to organizing the dog food. When they all got together each morning to feed their babies, cooing and fussing, I grabbed the Windex and cleaned the front doors. 
I was doomed. 
I lasted less than three days. You see, I don't like being left out of anything fun...and they were having a ball. Caring for a baby whatever you're afraid of is a fantastic strategy to overcome a phobia. At least for a Cancer it is. Some overdeveloped maternal instinct took over and I was cooing and fussing over my very own baby spider in no time. 
A year later I had forty-five tarantulas. It's possible I also have an addictive personality. 
The ugly truth is, spiders are fascinating! They do have a creepy factor, yes. Many, many of those scary/corny movies attest to that. But alongside the horror, spiders do a lot of really epic stuff. Spider silk is stronger than steel. They do more than just make webs with it, too. Tarantulas have all kinds of funky structures they manufacture, and their spinerets make different kinds of chemical mixes for each silk use. Some is sticky, some is tough, some is stretchy, etc. 
They also dance, groom themselves like a cat (but with eight legs!) and molt on a regular basis. The first time I caught my pink toe brushing its hair I was in love. When it molted, I almost swooned. A molting tarantula is very fragile. Even a tiny cricket can kill it during the process, when the poor spider is upside down, trying to twist out of a hard exoskeleton one leg at a time, and its new body is completely soft and unprotected. 
Tarantulas are also good mothers. They carry their egg sac with them, turn it, massage it, and in some cases even care for the young after they've hatched. 
The more I learned about them, the more the creepy monster became a character. 
Being an author of fiction, there's nothing  I love more than a good character...except maybe a good villain. Guess what? Spiders come with one of those as well. Ever hear of a tarantula hawk? Nasty bad wasps that sting and paralyze a tarantula and then lay an egg inside so that the larvae can hatch and nibble on the defenseless, still-living spider. 
Epic evil. 

So now, way too many years later, I have a cast of tarantulas, tribal humans who both fear and love them, and a rising cult of devil bees. (really nasty ones!) I get my monster story after all, but you can bet the spiders are on the good side. 

Make sure you check out the serial fiction story and blog, then check out the rest of Frances Pauli's writing. It's always an adventure.