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

Monday, January 29, 2018

Author Interview - Claire Buss

Claire Buss is a science fiction, fantasy & contemporary writer based in the UK. She wanted to be Lois Lane when she grew up but work experience at her local paper was eye-opening. Instead, Claire went on to work in a variety of admin roles for over a decade but never felt quite at home. An avid reader, baker and Pinterest addict Claire won second place in the Barking and Dagenham Pen to Print writing competition in 2015 setting her writing career in motion. The Gaia Effect, a hopeful dystopian novel and winner of the 2017 Raven Award for favourite Scifi/Fantasy novel, was published in 2016. Tales from Suburbia, a collection of humorous plays, blogs and short stories was published in July 2017. The Rose Thief, a humorous fantasy inspired by Claire's love of Pratchett was published in November 2017. Claire has had two short stories published in 2017. 'Underground Scratchings' can be found in the sci-fi and fantasy anthology Tales from the Underground, published by Inklings Press. 'Patient Data' can be found in the sci-fi anthology The Quantum Soul, published by SciFi Roundtable. 

How can we find you?

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 fantasy or sci-fi, I find it quite difficult to write in the 'real-world. It never feels genuine. Although I have written some humorous short stories and plays that are set in the real world so maybe I just need a bit more practice. My current favourite is my latest book, The Rose Thief, a humorous fantasy. It was so much fun to write, I really enjoyed meeting all the different characters and discovering their quirks. I am currently working on the sequel to my first book, The Gaia Effect, which is in very, very rough draft stage but I am looking forward to getting to grips with it soon and figuring out the structure etc. I am hoping to be able to write another collection of short stories to release in the summer called Tales from the Seaside and a couple of novellas to go with The Rose Thief later this year as well. 

What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?
I had a baby girl in December 2017 and I have a little boy who is four and a half so I don't get much time to relax lol. I enjoy watching movies, curling up with a good book and baking. One of my hobbies is crosstitch but I think it will be a little while before I get some quality time to sit down with that. My favourite movie of all time is The Princess Bride, closely followed by the LOTR and The Hobbit trilogies. I thoroughly enjoyed Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, as well as all the other Harry Potter movies. I enjoy the Marvel, Disney & Pixar films - to be fair, we watch at least two movies a week so it's safe to say we love everything! Apart from horror, I don't like horror movies. Again, I find it tricky to fit in watching tv shows so being able to record on your tv box is a life saver. Favourites include The Great British Bake Off and Dr Who. I recently watched The Expanse on Netflix which was fantastic and I am currently watching & enjoying Killjoys. 

What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to a music, and do you want to share your playlist?
I do like to write to music especially movie sound tracks, lately it has been Twilight, LOTR and The Hobbit. I sometimes listen to classical music as well. Amazon Prime has pre-made playlists in it's music section and they are great for having music on in the background while I try to write. I haven't got round to creating my own playlist.

"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?
Well, I must be the exception to the rule as I'm not particularly fond of cats! At present we do not have any pets at all. In the past I have had family cats, a hamster, a budgie and a tortoise. Oh and tropical fish. They were very soothing. No pictures I'm afraid because none of them are current pets. I do have an annual pass to my local sea life centre so I can include a photo of penguins because, you know, penguins! 

What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?
My advice to those wanting to be writers is to try and find a local writing group. I was very fortunate that my local library ran a series of writing workshops which were fantastic for idea generation, learning how to take criticism and understand the bones of writing. I would also recommend joining Facebook groups for indie authors who write similar genre to you, they can be very supportive and full of helpful tips & advice. There are also lots of great books on writing like Stephen King's On Writing and of course writers should read voraciously.

What writers inspired you to become an author?
I have been inspired to write by all the wonderful fantasy & sci-fi writers I've read over the years like Terry Pratchett, John Scalzi, Greg Bear, Robin Hobb, Robert Jordan and Ben Aaronovitch just to name a few.

If you could have dinner with any of your characters, which ones would you choose? What food would you serve?
I'd have dinner with Ned and Jenni from The Rose Thief and we'd have some of Momma K's delicacies as well as plenty of Aggie's cinnamon twists. I'd avoid the beetle quiche though.

If you could travel anywhere, on earth or off, where would you go?
I'd go into space, it would be so scary but it would be so amazing. Can you imagine doing a space walk? 

What color would you wear if you had only one choice?
Blue. I used to actually have a wardrobe that was mostly blue, it's my favourite colour.

Describe your dream writing spot.

My dream writing spot would be a comfy chair, hot cuppa, slice of cake and bags of inspiration to keep the writing flowing.

Sounds like we have a lot in common. Good luck with all your projects and thanks for stopping by!

Make sure you check out her books at the links above.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Thursday Recipe - Double Cream Cake

This is NOT a diet cake. Not by any stretch of the imagination. It's a pound cake variation that happened because I checked the expiration date on the cream cheese in my fridge. It came out dense and moist and delicious.

Double Cream Cake

1/2 c. softened butter
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. honey
3 eggs
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 t. almond extract
1 c. sour cream
2 c. flour
1/2 c. milk

Pre-heat oven to 325°F. Grease a bundt pan. Set aside.

Cream butter, cream cheese, sugar, and honey until fluffy. Add eggs, baking powder, baking soda, salt, almond extract, and sour cream. Beat until very well mixed. Turn mixer speed to low. Add 1 c. flour. Mix in. Stir in milk. Stir in 1 c. flour. Beat just until mixed.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan. Bake at 325° for 55-65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes. Invert onto a plate to finish cooling.

I served mine with raspberry jam. It stays moist for several days.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Getting Creative

You know what I love most about the creative process? Seeing something come together from bits and pieces of other stuff.

I love to make stuff. Some days I make words, stringing them into sentences then sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into stories. It's less visual than most creative projects, but no less satisfying. I love when I hit my rhythm and the words just flow. (Fascinating concept from psychology about Flow or being in the Zone.)

But some days my brain just won't make words. I stare at the blank screen or re-run the last couple of paragraphs of whatever I'm working on but nothing comes out right. A lot of times, I can push through it. If I start getting words down, eventually it will flow. But not every day.

So I have other projects.

I piece quilts. I love playing with the different colors and patterns. I never quite know how it's going to work out until I unfold the finished block or quilt top and see how it all goes together. The sum is definitely greater than the parts. Most of the time it looks gorgeous. Sometimes, though, I chose the fabrics poorly and it just isn't what I expected.

I also love crocheting. Taking skeins and balls of yarn and turning them into fun things. I do a lot of little animals, which are fun to make but can also be a pain to stitch together. I pick and choose the patterns. I'm currently making an afghan and having a ball choosing colors for each row. I'm only following the pattern for the stitches, the colors are all mine. (If you're into crocheting, knitting, or spinning, check out Ravelry.com. It's an excellent resource. And you can find me under vampiresquid. Send a friend request. I'd love to chat.)

And then there is the jewelry making. It can be fun, but mostly I just love playing with all the sparkly beads.

The kitchen is also a great place to get creative. Most of the time I make edible food. Sometimes, it's fantastic. And every once in a while, I cook something awful.

Being creative fills a need. I need to do something with my hands. I love to see quilts I've made on the beds. I love to snuggle under afghans I've made. I love to see people enjoying the food I've cooked. And I love to hear from people who have enjoyed my stories.

What do you do to get creative? What types of things do you enjoy making?

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thursday Recipe - Kumquat Pork

I usually try to stay away from weird ingredients that are hard to find. Kumquats kind of fit that definition. They are only in the stores sometimes and only in some stores. But I found some and my kids asked to try them out so I bought a few. A couple of my kids tried them, but they can be bitter. They're like little oranges and you eat the whole thing, peel and all. We had some sliced on salads and that was tasty. But I had a dozen that needed to be used soon. And I had a pork roast in my fridge. So I made Kumquat Pork. It was delicious.

I went to recreate the recipe a few days later when I had another pork roast, but I didn't have any more kumquats. I did have some tangerines and a lime so I used them instead. Still that great citrus flavor, but not quite as tasty.

So if you have kumquats, use them. If you don't, substitute in a lime and an orange or tangerine.

Kumquat Pork

2-3 lb boneless pork roast
1 onion, thinly sliced
12 kumquats, quartered
1/2 c. dried cranberries
3 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. worcerstershire sauce
1 t. garlic salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper

Lightly grease a small covered roasting pan. Spread the onions in the bottom. Add the pork roast. Sprinkle the kumquats, cranberries, vinegar, worcerstershire sauce, garlic salt, and pepper over the top.

Roast at 400°F for 1-2 hours - until pork is done and tender, and all the other stuff around it is carmelized into a nice chutney type topping.

Slice the pork. Serve with the topping stuff over rice or potatoes.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Monday, January 15, 2018

TV Show Review - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

So, we're surfing Hulu and we came across this show - Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Being bored, we decided to give it a try. I remembered hearing something about the book years ago, but couldn't remember ever reading it or anything else about it. I'm glad we did.

It's weird, wacky, wild, and very very unpredictable. The characters are bizarre. It involves kidnapping, murder, time travel, body swapping, weird nerve diseases, talking vans, a corgi, and a cute little black kitten.

Just surfed out to imdb.com to check this out, and it's the 2016 BBC America show that we watched. Check it out here.

We have enjoyed it immensely, all eight episodes of the first season that are on Hulu. I may have to go find season 2 on DVD...

Warning - it is a little disturbing at times. The holistic assassin is way over the top. Bodies drop like flies all through the series. Violence happens a lot. Not a show for small children, and maybe not for older children.

Five stars for a very enjoyable show with plenty of laughs and what in the world? moments. Warning for violence and gore and disturbing bizarre stuff.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thursday Recipe - Sour Cream Chocolate Bundt Cake

I got a new bundt pan for Christmas. *happy dance* I love weird and funky cake pans. I'm not such a fan of cake, though. I just love weird baking dishes. This one is supposed to make a giant doughnut, but it mostly just makes a smooth bundt cake.

And if all recipes were this delicious, I might decide cake is much better than I thought.

Sour Cream Chocolate Bundt Cake

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. sour cream
1 t. vanilla
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
2 eggs
2/3 c. cocoa powder
1 3/4 c. flour

Cream butter and sugar together. Stir in sour cream, vanilla, salt, soda, baking powder, eggs, and cocoa. Beat smooth. Stir in flour. Beat with a mixer for 2 minutes, until smooth and creamy.

Grease your pan of choice. Pour batter into the pan.

Bake rounds - 25-30 minutes at 375°
Bake 9x13 - 30-35 minutes at 375°
Bake bundt - 45-55 minutes at 350°
Bake cupcakes - 12-17 minutes at 375°

Monday, January 8, 2018

Movie Review - What's Up Doc?

This is the classic from 1972 starring Barbara Streisand, who looks so young, and Ryan O'Neal, who looks a lot like young Kurt Russell.

The whole family sat down to watch this one with me on New Year's Eve. We laughed our way through it. Great acting, great jokes, and just a silly fun movie.

Basically, the story is set in a hotel in San Francisco. Four travelers arrive on the same day with identical suitcases/luggage. And it's plaid. Total 70s, but in a fun way. One case has top secret documents and is being fought over by two spies. One case has a rich woman's jewelry collection. So much bling! Another case has a woman's clothes. And the last case has Howard's rocks. Not just any rocks, but musical rocks.

It's silly, campy, stupid at times, but very entertaining.

Five stars and a whole-hearted recommendation if you're looking for a comedy.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Thursday Recipe - Teriyaki Chicken

Nope, not a recipe today. Those will be coming. After I figure out my diet. Again. It turns out I'm allergic to tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers. I'm also reacting to cucumbers, honeydew melons, and cantaloupe. I had no idea how much I relied on tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes in particular. I'm even reacting to chili powder and paprika.

I have to revamp my whole recipe box, especially since I'm supposed to be eating a low-glycemic load diet on top of that.

So, anyone have recipes that don't use tomatoes, potatoes, or peppers of any kind? Ones that aren't cream-based? I would love some more main dishes to try.

Teriyaki Chicken was a hit the other night, but it's high on the sodium.

Time to change up everything again...

Teriyaki Chicken

2 lbs boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size chunks
1 onion, sliced thin
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. lemon juice
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. garlic powder
2 T. sesame seeds

Place chicken in a small roasting pan or casserole. Spread the onions over the top. Mix together the rest of the ingredients. Pour over the chicken.

Bake uncovered at 350° for 30-40 minutes if chicken is thawed, 60-75 minutes if chicken is frozen, until chicken is done.

Serve over rice with green onions as a garnish.

Monday, January 1, 2018

TV Show Review - The Orville

So, I finally signed up for a free month of Hulu to check it out. Mostly because it had a show that Netflix didn't have that my husband really wanted to see. He'd heard good things about it. We gave up after episode four. It wasn't the Orville. But that show was there, too, so we decided to try it out.

I had high hopes going in. Friends had recommended it as much better than the new Star Trek. It looked like fun.

It was like watching a bunch of people eating ding dongs. Sometimes is was funny, sometimes it wasn't, but the whole show felt like a train wreck in slow motion. And not a good one.

First off, the characters were okay. New show, it takes a while for the actors to gel. That was happening. They had an interesting mix of aliens, humans, and whatever to play with.

The set was awesome. The costumes were great. The special effects were pretty good. Those things they got right.

The writing absolutely sucked. It was horrid. The plots were lame and completely predictable.

Every single episode had at least one, if not numerous, genital jokes. Ones that even a 9yo boy would be embarrassed to tell his friends because of the lameness.

Writing humor is tricky. Adding silly touches to a fairly serious story takes a light touch and timing. Orville lacks both. The humor was slapped in at inappropriate times, and completely ruined any momentum and emotional attachment to the story and characters. And it was heavy-handed, like yelling, "I told a joke! And it was funny! Laugh!"

The dialogue was utterly stupid. A transcription of a group of 13yo girls having lunch at the mall would be more entertaining and much more intelligent. They're supposed to be a military ship, similar to Next Gen ST, but the banter on the bridge would never be tolerated. The lack of respect between officers and the constant insertion of personal issues made the whole show unbelievable. There was no sense of decorum. Ever.

I could rip more holes in the writing and the stories, but I think you get the picture.

The show was a disappointment. Even when they had the chance to do something new and unexpected they took the easy way out and gave us more Hollywood PC crap. They treated the audience like idiots. They killed the characters with imbecilic dialogue and stupid jokes.

Rating - TURKEY, except for costumes and sets, they get four stars
Warning - Lots of crude inappropriate humor at awkward moments. Genital jokes in EVERY episode.

If you want to watch a GREAT sci-fi show, try Star Trek Continues. It recreates the best of the best of the original Star Trek with all new episodes. It's on YouTube -