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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Bladder Bug Pods and Alien Larvae Paste

What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell the same. If I call normal food dishes by weird and unusual names, it still tastes fine. Except for the psychological bit of your brain that is grossed out by the sicko description.

I've been at work for the last four days, serving food and washing dishes and cleaning the cafeteria. I have to have my fun somewhere. My boss challenged me at the beginning of the summer to create weird alien food to serve to the campers. Not as a main dish but as a side. So far I've served:

Targ Litter Cake (aka Kitty Litter Cake) - Delicious crumbled cake and pudding with just enough crushed oreos to make it look authentic and artistically shaped tootsie rolls. Use your imagination. The kids loved it.

Eyeball jello - Peach jello with lychee and blueberry "eyes". I posted the recipe a while back.

Bajoran Fruit Salad - Lots of fresh fruit topped with fresh figs. If you want to serve a really weird looking fruit that most people haven't eaten before, find some fresh figs.

Alien Larvae Paste - aka Hummus. My boss had never tasted hummus before. He is now in love with a new food. Most of the staff had never tasted it either. I was surprised by how many campers knew what it was and liked it. Healthy and nutritious, it's a staple at my house. (I thought I'd posted the recipe. I'll have to do that here.)

Bladder Bug Pods - aka Hot Dogs. I serve BallPark all beef franks. I'm not a fan of hot dogs, but these I like, especially smothered with sauerkraut and mustard. Yep, I'm serving sauerkraut. Exposing kids to new foods.

I also serve them sausage sandwiches with PROVOLONE cheese. It isn't cheddar. Most kids have never tasted cheese other than cheddar. Sad. Very sad. Maybe I'll bring down my wonderfully funky smelling blue cheese for the next camp. Call it alien foot fungus or something disgusting like that.

Try something new. Branch out. Try a new spice or a new vegetable or fruit. I like to play the game "stump the checker" at the grocery store. I find the weirdest produce I can and see if the checker knows what it is. Those little stickers with the codes are taking the fun out of the game, though. I buy the stuff because I like it and I know how to cook it. The one vegetable I refuse to ever touch is a Jerusalem artichoke. Ick. And canned peas, but those aren't even food. Everything else is free game. Just for fun, go to an oriental market and check out their produce. I found the most delicious melons there a few summers ago. Weird looking, but so sweet.

And since it's recipe Thursday, here's my recipe for basic hummus.


1 18 oz can garbanzo beans
1 T. lemon juice
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. ground black pepper
2 T. sesame seeds
2 t. oil, optional

Open the beans. Don't drain them. Dump everything in a blender and run it until you have a smooth paste. Scoop into a covered container and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Serve with chips or crackers.

Things to stir in: (Just don't add them all at the same time)
1 t. dried parsley
1 t. dried Italian herbs (basil, oregano) or 2 T. fresh
1 t. dried rosemary
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. cayenne powder
2 T. finely minced onion
2 T. finely minced pimento peppers
2 T. finely minced sun-dried tomatoes
3 T. pine nuts (add to the blender)
2 T. chopped fresh mint
1 t. curry powder
1 T. rice vinegar

You can add pretty much any seasonings from Italy, Greece, Persia, Israel, any middle Eastern country, clear over to India.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Writing a Serial Story

For the last few years I've been playing with a serial blog story. It's just for fun, Star Trek fanfic sort of, based on a character I play at work. Read it here, if you want. It's a different exercise than writing a short story or novel. Those I plan out. I know what's going to happen and where the story is going. With a serial story, I make it up as I go along. I have no idea where the story is going to end when I start writing. Each week or so, I sit down and write another episode. I guess it's like writing a tv show, but I wouldn't know. I only watch those, I've never written one.

For those who like to write by the seat-of-their-pants, this process will sound very familiar. From what I understand, those authors make it up as they go. I respect them for that. It's a tough process when you give yourself that much freedom. I write from a loose outline, nothing too specific, except for my serial story. That is truly seat-of-my-pants.

It's a weird feeling and more than a little scary to write an episode at a time and post it before you write the next one. What if the writing isn't polished? What if I made mistakes? What if I change my mind and want to rewrite to take the story in a new direction? What if it isn't any good? What if no one reads it? Wait, that last one is a good thing. Sort of.

So why do we write stories if not to share? And what's more fun than sharing that scary but exciting first exploration draft? Serial stories can be lots of fun to write and read. You have a new chapter every week, if the author sticks to a schedule (sorry, I don't do that very well with my story. I post as I write which can be very hit and miss but the first two stories are up and story #3 is started). Writing them is usually done just for fun. There is no real plotting or planning, at least the way I'm writing. The story is free to wander wherever it wants. Scary, but exciting. The story and characters can take surprising twists. For those who believe that the author is in charge and decides everything, you've never really written stories. The characters come alive and do things different than the author may want. The story may wriggle itself in brand new directions. Ideas rise from your meta-consciousness like the kraken from the deep, mysterious and unexplained.

Do you write a serial blog? Post a link and share! For those of you who've never read one, go try one.
Adrian Stevens, Quartermaster

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Seafood Salad

Summer is here and the temperatures are finally feeling like summer. Time for cold salads and picnics and lots of chilling in front of the AC. Most of my favorite summer dishes are simple like this one:


Buy a big watermelon that sounds hollow when you thump it. Chop it up and serve it. Refrigerate it if you like it cold.

Or this one:


Buy some really nice looking berries. Wash them and serve them nice and cold.

My kids nibble of fresh fruits and veggies all summer. Most need nothing fancier than ranch dressing or maybe some snort (whipped topping in a can). I really don't cook that much in the summer. This salad was what we served for dinner tonight. Quick and easy and tasty.

Seafood Salad

1 12 oz package of Krab meat, or crab meat if you're rich or live on the coast
1/4 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped small
1/3 c. red bell pepper, chopped
2/3 c. mayonnaise
2 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1 t. paprika
salt to taste

Use a fork to break the krab meat into small pieces. Mix everything together. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. Serve with crackers or rolls.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Author Interview - Marva Dasef

Today I welcome author Marva Dasef to the Far Edge of Normal.

Bio: Marva Dasef is a writer living in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and a fat white cat.  Retired from thirty-five years in the software industry, she has now turned her energies to writing fiction and finds it a much more satisfying occupation.  Marva has published more than forty stories in a number of on-line and print magazines, with her stories included in several Best of anthologies. She has eight published books.

She can be found at the following sites:


You can find all of my published work on Amazon and Smashwords.

Amazon Author Page:
Smashwords Author Page:

Current Titles:
The Tales of Abu Nuwas: Featured Book
Tales of a Texas Boy
Quest for the Simurgh
Eagle Quest
Ultimate Duty
First Duty (the short YA version of Ultimate Duty)
Mixed Bag
Mixed Bag II

Coming from MuseItUp Publishing:
Missing, Assumed Dead, July 2011 – Mystery/suspense set in Eastern Oregon
    Book Trailer:
The Witches of Galdorheim Series
    Bad Spelling, October 2011
    Midnight Oil, January 2012
    Scotch Broom, April 2012


Q: What genres do you write?

A: As you can see from my titles list, I write just about everything. In my short story anthologies, “Mixed Bag” and “Mixed Bag II,” I have fantasy, science fiction, horror, humor, romance, alternate history, children, and literary fiction.

The only thing I do not write is erotica, although I have some pretty adult stories, especially in the horror genre. My science fiction romance/space opera, “Ultimate Duty,” has some hot sex scenes, but doesn’t classify as erotica. I originally wrote the book as a YA science fiction under the title “First Duty.” It was published by a very small publisher in 2008. When I got back my rights, I published it independently. Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring along my very cool cover. The publisher, Sam’s Dot Publishing, still has copies of “First Duty” and one other of my books, “The Seven Adventures of Cadida.”

Q: What inspires your stories?

A: News articles, internet research, dreams, or titles just coming into my head wanting to have a book written for them. For example, the first book in my upcoming YA fantasy series developed from the title “Bad Spelling.” Something brought that to my mind, and I had to write a book to go with it. It was too good a title to pass up.

Q: What is your current WIP?

A: Alas, I’ve been too busy publicizing my recent releases, I haven’t done much writing. I have an outline for another book in the Witches of Galdorheim series, and I hope to get back to work on that after the release of my mystery/suspense book, “Missing, Assumed Dead.”

Q: Did you always want to be an author? Who inspired you?

A: It depends on what you mean by author. I spent many years writing technical documentation with only a few fiction stories which I never submitted for publication at the time.

When I retired from my job with the State of Oregon, I hauled out those stories and worked them over. I was fortunate to get some quick sales and I became an author in the sense of a writer of fictional works.

I only wrote short stories for a long time. I swore I just didn’t have any long works in me. However, in 2007, I decided to try Nanowrimo, the November month-long novel writing event. I wrote the required 50K words to ‛win’. That showed me I could write longer works. That book was heavily edited down to the 25K “Eagle Quest.” Everything else followed from that.

Q: What characters are your favorites from your books?

A: Rune from the Witches of Galdorheim series is my favorite. He’s also the favorite of many of my beta readers. He’s the half-brother of the main character, Kat, the girl witch who can’t cast a spell. Rune happens to be a very talented spell caster, despite the fact he’s two years younger. He goes along with Kat on her search for her mundane family. He’s a great protector for his spell-less sister, but has a somewhat cocky but charming attitude. Did I mention he’s half vampire? That’s his inner demon he has to tame.

Q: If you could meet one historical person for dinner, who would it be and why?

A: Leonardo DaVinci. I suspect he was an alien. What else explains all those impossible (at the time) inventions and his general brilliance.

Q: 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?

A: While my hubs and I plan on a Grand European Tour in the next couple of years, we won’t get to everywhere. If I had the money and time, I’d go to Australia and New Zealand. Both as real and fictional destinations.

Q: If you could time travel, what is one event you would want to see in person, either future or past?

A: Not only would I want to see this event, I would kill to participate in the first spaceship to leave the Solar System for another star. I know it will be a heckuva long trip, but it’d be worth it. In the shorter term, I’d love to take at least an orbital flight.

Q: What's your favorite color? Food? Reading spot?

A: Color: Green, and I’m not even Irish.
Food: Pizza, but I shouldn’t ever eat it. Way too much fat. Still, crispy pepperoni, melty cheese...yum!
Reading spot: In bed, all propped up with pillows with my Kindle in hand.

My Giveaway of the Day is “The Tales of Abu Nuwas,” a MG/YA fantasy in the tradition of 1001 Arabian Nights. Find it at Smashwords ( and use coupon code VY32L at checkout (good until 6/30/2011).

Abu Nuwas sits in the bazaar telling stories to the passersby he can tempt to pay. When Najda, a poor girl, offers him a packet of spice for a story, Abu Nuwas launches into a tale about a girl named Setara and her genie. As did Scheherazade, he leaves the girl hanging in the middle of each yarn to keep her coming back for more. While relating the fantastical accounts, Abu Nuwas learns more of the spice girl's life, then finds a way to save her from a forced marriage and find a better life.

The teller of tales relates the adventures of a girl and her genie as they encounter the creatures of legend and folklore: a lonely cave demon seeking a home; a flying, fire-breathing horse who has lost his mate; a dragon searching for his family; an evil genie hunting for the man who bottled him; and a merboy cast out of his undersea kingdom.

Book Trailer:


Setara slumped to the cave floor. What, she wondered, could these superstitious tribesmen think was a mountain demon? Cloistered she may be, but she was well educated and did not believe in demons. These were old men’s tales to frighten children. It made no difference, really. Dead was dead, whether by a demon’s talons or a mountain cat’s fangs.

She smacked her head against the rock wall and realized she had dozed off. How stupid of me. I’m waiting here for something to eat me and I take a nap! She edged toward the entrance, kicking herself mentally. Why hadn’t she simply tried to push the bushes aside and get out?

She found the answer in the inch-long thorns on the shrubs, tied down so she couldn’t move them. When she had pushed on them with her tied hands, she got a gash for her effort. Now, the mountain cats would smell blood, and it would be all over.

Backing away from the thorns, she pushed her body into the wall. At least she could face the lions when they came.

A loud crash, followed by a slither of loose gravel sounded no more than twenty feet from where she crouched. Setara pressed herself harder into the cave wall, closed her eyes tight and clenched her teeth.

Her eyes and mouth popped open simultaneously at what she heard next.

“Why can’t they clean up these blasted caves?” a deep voice rumbled.

Suddenly, a torch flared, and Setara could see the source of the voice. An eight-foot tall figure loomed in the light. A turbaned head nearly touched the now visible cave roof. Setara gaped at the man. Or was it a man? While his features were man-like, the three-inch fangs, sharp talons, and beastly snout belied his humanity. Dressed in the old style, with ballooning trousers tied at the ankles, a brocaded vest opened to reveal a broad, hairless chest.

The creature held up the torch, which Setara could now see was a flame jetting from his upraised index finger. The monster glanced around until his gaze rested on Setara.

“Ah, a bargain made, goods delivered.” A deep voice chuckled sounding like the beat of a drum. Huh huh huh. “Good evening, my dear. Please, come out into the light. Nothing to be afraid of, I assure you.”

Despite his words, she did not feel reassured. She could only whimper as she continued to try to melt into the stone wall. This was the demon! How could such a thing be? Demons and ogres were only legends and fairy tales, yet here one stood before her. In the flesh, so to speak.

The demon grinned, a most disconcerting grin, exposing his fangs to their full length. “Come, come, my little lady, don’t be afraid. I’m not an ogre, you know.” The beast’s fangs and nose shrank back to a more normal size.

“You . . . you’re a demon,” Setara barely whispered.

“A what? Oh, good heavens, what kind of nonsense have they been filling your head with? I most certainly am not a demon. Why, the very idea! Any fool can see that I’m a genie. You know, a djinn.”

“If you’re a djinn, where is your lamp?” Setara managed to ask.

“Lamp? Oh, that was just Aladdin’s genie, Shairan. Most of us don’t hang around in lamps. Old Shairan was tricked into that one. Evil as the devil, but not too bright, I’m afraid.”

Thanks for joining me, Marva. It's been fun getting to know you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Hogwarts Cherry Tarts

Just in case someone calls about it, I'm not affiliated in any way with JK Rowling or her book series. I just liked the idea of creating a mini-Hogwarts university course for my children. I've been posting recipes for the last few weeks from this. These cherry tarts are the last I've got for this particular theme. They are luscious and rich and creamy and I really really REALLY want some right now but I don't want to make them even though they are easy. I'm just that lazy today.

Hogwarts Cherry Tarts

4 c. powdered sugar
2 c. cookie crumbs (vanilla wafers or chocolate sandwich cookies, smashed and smooshed into crumbs)
1/2 c. cocoa
1/4 c. milk
1/3 c. cream cheese
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. almond extract
1/2 c. candied cherries, cut up

Mix 2 c. powdered sugar, cookie crumbs, and cocoa. Sprinkle milk over and stir just until it holds together. Press crust mixture into paper lined miniature muffin pans, it should make about 24. Beat cream cheese with vanilla and almond extract. Gradually add the other 2 c. of powdered sugar. Beat well. Stir in cherries. Spoon into the shells. Chill until firm.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What Really Matters in a Story

I've been involved in too many discussions over the last months, mostly with other authors. One question I've never resolved to my satisfaction is, "What matters in a story? What do the readers want?"

Authors will tell you that point of view matters. Sentence structure is very important. Grammar is necessary. Rhythm and pacing are important. Character, setting, and plot and all sorts of other technical aspects matter. And they're right. All of it is necessary. Good writing is the foundation and structure where you hang your story. If the writing is flawed, it's harder to create a strong story.

But one aspect I think gets lost in the discussion is that the main thing readers want is a story. They want characters they care about to take action and resolve problems. They want a story to carry them away. Most people read to escape. They don't care if a book is technically flawless. They care if the characters are likeable, if the story is entertaining.

Authors love to pick apart other books especially best selling books, pointing fingers at the flaws, at the terrible prose and weak descriptions and wandering dialogue. Readers don't seem to care about the technical flaws. If they did, the books wouldn't sell like they do. The authors wouldn't have rabid fans mobbing them.

So what do readers really want in a book? Am I completely off base in my assumptions? Do typos make you quit reading or can you overlook them if the story is good enough?

Here's the incentive to participate in the discussion: If I have more than twenty people commenting on this post in the next week or so, I'll pick a random commenter to win their choice of one of the books I've got on my shelf - Nexus Point (my SF adventure novel), Rotting Tales (a collection of mostly silly zombie stories), Wretched Moments Anthology (celebrate those moments no one wants to ever remember), How the West was Wicked Anthology (weird western horror stories), or Leather, Denim, & Silver: Legends of the Monster Hunter Anthology.

Comment away and tell me what you as a reader look for in a book.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Hagrid's Thumbprints

Continuing on with Hogwarts, this is a fun cookie. It is rich, decadent, and looks much more difficult than it is. If you like pecan sandies and caramel filling, this is the cookie for you. I named them Hagrid's Thumbprints because you need a really big thumb to make the hole big enough to hold the filling.

Hagrid's Thumbprints

1 c. butter
1 c. powdered sugar
2 c. flour
1/2 c. chopped nuts, pecans preferred
1 T. vanilla

Cream butter and sugar. Blend in vanilla. Add flour and nuts. Stir just until mixed. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Press thumb into each cookies to make a hole for the filling. The hole shrinks a bit when cooking so make sure you make it large enough without pushing through the bottom. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes. Cool.

1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
dash of salt
1/4 c. evaporated milk, NOT sweetened condensed milk
1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. vanilla

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and salt. Bring to a boil. Boil and stir for two minutes. Remove from heat and stir in milk. Bring back to a boil; boil and stir for another two minutes. Remove from heat. Cool for 15 minutes. Stir in powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth.

Fill each cookie with about 1 t. of filling. Let cool and set up for at least one hour.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Basket of Book Reviews

Here's another sampling of book reviews. I'm trying to catch up on what I've read but time keeps escaping. I think we all deal with that. Kids, jobs, family, yard work- everything conspires to interfere with my reading and writing time. If a book doesn't catch my attention and keep it, I don't finish it. I used to finish everything I started reading, but not anymore. Maybe I'm pickier, maybe I just have a lot less free time to spend with mediocre books. The ones I review are ones I read, finished, and enjoyed. They may not be great literature, but they were fun to read. So, for what it's worth, here's my opinion. Disclaimer - nobody paid me or asked me to review or read these books. I read them because I wanted to.

And I include links to Amazon product pages because it's the easiest way to find things, not because I love Amazon. Well, I do, mostly. You can usually find whatever you need there.

Moth in Darkness, Frances Pauli

The boundaries between the worlds have fallen. Forced to integrate the creatures of fantasy into real life, humanity struggles against its disillusionment, prejudice and an inevitable feeling of inadequacy. Once an agent for the embassy that mediates between the worlds, Elizabeth Larson has abandoned her past and slipped into a world of nostalgic addiction to fairy revels, dancing, and the dark lure of her own memories. But when Lockland Sheen, her former partner and lover, goes missing, she is pulled reluctantly back into service. She must venture once more across the borders, into the land that haunts her, facing a string of gruesome murders, the imposing Sidhe rulers and her own addiction in the process. While the Embassy's agents attempt to soothe tensions between the races, Liz and her new partner search the fairy realm for Lockland. Fighting the constant temptation of the revels, they piece together the trail of an unknown enemy. But the longer they follow it, the more it appears that the man they came to rescue is more villain than victim. And the more they rely on Elizabeth's ties to the fairies, the closer she inches toward the madness that lurks behind her fantasies.

I loved this book. I can't wait for the sequel. It isn't light and happy dancing fairies and kittens. It's dark urban fantasy. The fey are alien, but still human in so many ways. They present themselves as perfect, but they're flawed. Elizabeth retreats into the revels as a way to escape the truth she discovered. Just go read it. It's a great book.

Five stars, PG-13 for violence and adult topics (addiction mostly)

Birth of the Firebringer, Meredith Ann Pierce

Jan, the prince of the unicorns, is high-spirited, reckless-and the despair of his mighty father, Korr. Reluctantly, Korr allows Jan to accompany the other initiate warriors on a pilgrimage. Soon Jan's curiosity leads him, along with his friend Dagg, and their mentor, the female warrior Tek, into the greatest dangers-deadly gryphons, sly pans, wyverns, pards, and renegade unicorns. Yet time after time they are rescued, leading Jan to wonder: Am I the heir to a special destiny?

This is a kids' book. I rolled my eyes at the idea of talking unicorns and a whole unicorn culture. But I found myself intrigued enough to keep reading. The story is a bit predictable, full of angsty growing up scenes and angry teenager scenes, but there are enough twists and turns that I kept reading. The world is interesting. I was a bit bothered by unicorns being the only good creatures, all others are evil, but the author hints that it is the limited view of one tribe of unicorns that are bigoted. Jan learns that not everything he has been taught is true. Renegade unicorns aren't the evil his tribe believes.

Four stars, PG for mild violence

Ribbonwork, The Complete Guide; Helen Gibb

Ribbonwork comes to life in this appealing guide, featuring 5 beautiful projects to craft for heirlooms or gifts. Materials overviews, a "Ribbon Length Guide", easy-to-follow directions and an inspirational gallery are included.

I sat through a panel on early 20th century ribbonwork at Norwescon. The idea fascinated me. This book is the one most highly recommended for beginners. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. Helen Gibb starts with simple flowers and moves into progressively more difficult techniques. I haven't started creating ribbon flowers yet, but it's on my list of new hobbies. I just need more hours in a day.

Five stars, G with a warning that the pictures are so pretty that you'll want to rush out and get some ribbon and make your own ribbon flowers.

Soapmaking the Natural Way, Rebecca Ittner

Here's where simple techniques meet 100% natural soaps that please the eye, the nose, and the environment!
Made with the safe and simple melt-and-pour method, these projects feature a delicious range of eco-friendly and animal-free ingredients-from oatmeal and lavender to honeysuckle and clay. The ins-and-outs of soap bases, colorants, and essential oils all received detailed attention.
Soapmaking the Natural Way is an affordable, informative, and inspiring resource.

Yet another hobby I want to explore. The book presents lots of really fun looking soaps that use melt and pour glycerin bases. Since most of my family has sensitive skin and lots of allergies, I would love to make soaps that smell good but won't irritate their skin. Glycerin soaps can be hard to find in the store. I'm planning on making several of these for my own family and to use as gifts.

Five stars, G with another warning that hobbies can be addictive

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thursday Recipe - Transformation Dough, aka PlayDough

Continuing the Harry Potter theme (and apologies for missing posts the last couple of weeks), this is one of the best recipes I've ever discovered. It tastes horrible, but that isn't the point. If you have small children, they love to play with messy icky stuff like Playdough, the real stuff. With this recipe, you know exactly what's going into it, so if they do eat it, you know it's safe. It's also cheap and easy to make. Colored or not, the dough cleans up better than the commercial stuff.

This recipe came from a cookbook I inherited from my mom. It's been around since the 1970s and I can't remember the name or anything else. But I still have this recipe.

Transformation Dough (AKA play dough)

1 c. flour
1/4 c. salt
2 T. cream of tartar
1 c. water
1 t. food coloring, optional
1 T. oil

Measure everything into a 2 quart saucepan. Stir it together. It looks like a mess but trust me, it is supposed to at this point. Cook over medium heat until the mess consolidates into a ball and looks a bit rubbery. Dump it out and let it cool until you can handle it without burning your hands. Knead it until it's smooth and pliable.

Store in a ziploc baggie or air tight container. It will keep for months. When it gets crusty or grows fuzzy bits, toss it and make another batch or three.