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Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Monday, July 30, 2012

Nervous Butterflies

Today is the day we start ripping our kitchen apart. WOOT! I'm excited. I hate those stupid cabinets that bash me in the head every time I cook.

And in two weeks, Priestess of the Eggstone will start shipping! To tease you, here's a blurb and excerpt:

Pursued by the Targon Crime Syndicate bent on revenge, the Patrol intent on recruitment, and the Sessimoniss who want their god back, the last thing Captain Dace needs is a handsome copilot with romance on his mind.

But that’s exactly what she’s got.

She didn’t realize she was smuggling when she accepted the courier job. Now Targon wants her for stealing the shipment and the Patrol wants to arrest her. The Sessimoniss want their god back. And Jerimon’s aunt is planning their wedding.

She doesn’t know which scares her most.

Priestess of the Eggstone: The Fall of the Altairan Empire Book 2 by Jaleta Clegg


We rounded the last big moon into clear space. I checked the nav program one last time, to make sure we were headed the right direction before we jumped. The chatter of local pilots was steady as a background noise that dissolved into static as we passed into the moon's shadow. The ship lurched, then slowed, the engines whining.
I flipped switches, trying to find the problem. Jerimon pushed the thrusters all the way to the stops. The engine whine rose in pitch. The ship shuddered. The emergency lights flashed. Warnings hooted through the ship.
"Shut it down!" I yelled over the noise.
Jerimon stubbornly tried to pull more power from the engines. His face was pale and his chin set as he goosed the throttles. I reached across the controls to slam the switches off. Jerimon slumped in his chair, hands over his face. The engines spun down. The alarms shut up, all except one. It was a quiet, insistent beeping with a single, flashing red light.
I checked the screen, then muttered a bad word at the unknown vessel showing on the scans. "Who'd be using a tractor beam out here?"
The ship was bigger, but that didn't mean much. Anything was bigger than my ship. The scanners didn't show any ID traces from the other ship.
"Does it look like pirates to you?" Pirates weren't uncommon in this sector but Rucal had a major Patrol station out beyond the moons. What pirate would be stupid enough to operate under the Patrol's nose?
I knew of at least one, but he was in prison. I scowled at the screen. In a few moments, I wouldn't need the scanner. I could just look outside.
Jerimon dropped his hands to his lap, staring bleakly at the monitor. If he didn't know who was on that ship, I'd eat my socks—the ones I'd been wearing for three days without washing because I hadn't found the time.
"Who are they and why are they dragging us in?"
Jerimon shook his head, eyes locked on the approaching ship. He gripped the chair so hard his knuckles went white.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Macaroni and Cheese

I can't believe I never posted this recipe. This is one of the first dishes my oldest son learned to cook. Versatile, simple, cheap - how can I have overlooked macaroni and cheese?

Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb dry macaroni, whatever shape you like although elbows are traditional
1/4 c. butter
4 T. flour
4 c. milk
1/2 t. ground black pepper
dash tabasco sauce
4 c. shredded cheese, sharp cheddar is traditional

Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a 2 quart saucepan. Stir in flour. Cook and stir for one minute. It should be smooth and bubbly. Stir in milk 1 c. at a time, whisking well after each addition. Stir in pepper and tabasco sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce comes to a full boil. Boil and stir for one minute. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, continue stirring just until cheese is melted. Pour over macaroni, stir gently to coat noodles. Serve immediately.

Variations: These are endless. Use your imagination.

Cheeses: Try swiss cheese for a fondue flavor. Or add in 1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese for a stronger tang. Use whatever bits of cheese you've got in the fridge. Be bold, experiment.

One of our favorites is to use 2 c. shredded parmesan for the cheese and add 1 t. dried oregano or Italian herb mix for a delightful alfredo sauce.

Mexican: Add 1/4 t. ground cayenne pepper and a pinch of cumin. Stir in 1 can corn, drained; 1 can chopped green chilis, 1/2 c. sliced olives, and 1 c. salsa. Garnish with chopped green onions.

Baconator: Cook 6 slices, or several pounds if you want, of bacon until crisp. Crumble and set aside until mac'n'cheese is done. Stir in bacon and extra cheese as desired.

Other things to try:
cooked and crumbled sausage
chopped, steamed broccoli
12 oz bag of frozen veggies and 2 cans of tuna fish, well drained
sliced hot dogs and 1/4 c. pickle relish
try lemon pepper seasoning over the top and fresh salmon on the side
pour mac'n'cheese into a baking dish and top with smashed potato chips. Bake at 350° until bubbly.
pour into a shallow baking dish and top with pizza toppings, bake at 400° until hot. This works great the the alfredo version.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gearing Up

August is almost here. Life is going to get very interesting. And very, very busy. The rest of July is booked solid. I'm going on a pioneer trek. Yep, dress up like a pioneer and pull handcarts and learn what those pioneers went through to emigrate to Utah. It's a Mormon thing. I don't have to walk the 36 miles, though. My husband and I are responsible for driving the water truck for them. No, this isn't authentic pioneer re-enactment. We don't want kids dying on the trek. I'll be out of touch for several days. I'll have to post a report when I return.

As soon as I'm back from that, I get to do food for the last camp of the summer season for the space center. Wow, that went by quick. That's eleven summers in the school kitchen, feeding Starfleet officers.

As soon as I'm home from that camp, we pack up our kitchen. Next Monday, we start dismantling cabinets. YES!!! I'm getting a new kitchen. I'm so thrilled about it. Not about losing my kitchen for a month. That will get fun with 8-10 people living here, depending on the day and week. We're cooking in a microwave, toaster, and crockpots when we cook. Dishes get done in the bathtub or on the deck in buckets. We're going to contribute to the landfill with paper dishes as much as possible. But when it's done, I will have a wonderful kitchen that works better for our family. I'll make sure I do before, during, and after photos for you.

I'm not done yet. I'm signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo for August. I've got to get writing longer works again. It's great therapy and with my kitchen torn apart, I'm going to need something besides cooking for therapy.

School starts in August, too. I've got two high-schoolers and two elementary school students to get prepped.

And finally (at least I hope that's the end of my scary list), Priestess of the Eggstone officially releases August 10. WOOT!!! Preorders are open now

Things I decided might push me over the edge if I kept them on my list?

SpoCon. I just can't make a trip to Spokane for a convention, not this year. I'm sad. SpoCon is a lot of fun. Anyone want to buy two memberships from me? Just drop me a line and include your email.

Cooking. No kitchen. 'Nuff said.

Sewing. Well, maybe not. Depends on whether my daughter cleans her laundry out of the room so I can get inside. It's nice to do when I get stuck in my book. Keeps my hands busy while my brain figures out how to get out of the corner I just wrote myself into.

I'd love to add cleaning the house, but if I ignore it for a month, I will be even worse. Have to keep some semblance of order.

What are you planning to do in August?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Easy Ice Cream

I used to have one of these:
Note the ice and salt mix to keep it cold. Yes, the thing was electric but it never worked right. It also took a lot of planning - buy enough ice, make sure I had rock salt, buy the ice cream mix, etc. We never did get good ice cream out of the thing. It was messy and took forever. And noisy? Hoo, boy. Loud enough to drown out the vacuum cleaner.

A couple years ago, I bought one of these for my birthday:
It's small, true. But, it uses frozen bowls inside to make ice cream. No salt, no ice, no mess. You just have to keep the bowl in the freezer. It's hand wash only, which means when we do make ice cream, the bowl usually sits next to the sink for a few days until someone decides to do hand wash. So, I got a second bowl for my birthday last summer. It's that easy and that quiet. It takes about 15 minutes to make ice cream and it's soft and creamy, perfect. We haven't made sorbets in it yet, but that's another possibility. I did make coconut milk ice cream, but the recipe still needs some tweaking.

For now, here's my recipe for super easy Chocolate Ice Cream.

Super Easy Chocolate Ice Cream

4 c. chocolate milk
1 4 serving size box of chocolate fudge pudding mix

Mix pudding mix with the milk. Yes it will be runny. It's supposed to be. I know what it says on the box, just ignore it and trust me.

Start up your 1.5 quart ice cream maker. Pour the mix in the top. Let it run for about 15 minutes. Turn it off and enjoy chocolatey fudgey ice cream goodness.

Use regular milk and any flavor of pudding mix you want. Pistachio ice cream, anyone?

These ice cream makers have a different kind of dasher, so feel free to add chopped fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, crumbled cookies, or whatever you want as you mix the ice cream.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Author Interview - Diane Dooley

Please welcome Diane Dooley to The Far Edge of Normal!

Diane Dooley writes science fiction, romance and horror - sometimes all in the same story.   She blogstweets and facebooks. Feel free to track her down. 

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 write in three genres – science fiction, romance and horror. Often my stories will have elements of one or more of these genres. I write mostly science fiction romance novellas, contemporary romance novels and novellas, and horror short stories. I guess one of my favorites was my first published piece: a humorous little horror story about Goldilocks entitled A Taste of Revenge. (warning: funny, but disturbing) Never did like that girl! My next release will be Blue Nebula, a science fiction novella from Carina Press. It has a bit of romance and horror in it, too. I  just can’t seem to stick to one genre!

Sounds like you write very similar to me. My first publication was a short about two blond dyslexic witches who sell their souls to Santa. And he shows up to collect. My books are all SF.
What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?

Reading is my favorite form of relaxation. I read at least a book a week, usually more. I love to grow flowers and vegetables, but I have a massive garden and it’s more hard work than actual relaxation. I don’t watch much T.V., but when I do I tend to get a boxset of all the seasons and then totally binge on it. Most recently I did this with HBO’s The Wire. Brilliant, gritty, fantastic cast and writing. I’m still mourning the end. The writing has pretty much taken over all the time I used to spend watching movies. I love the films of Wim Wenders, the Cohen Brothers, musicals (Cabaret and Jesus Christ Superstar are my favorites) and lots of subtitled foreign fare, particularly if they’re dark and tragic and esoteric.

What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to music, and do you want to share your playlist?

I read a lot and listen to music. Most of my inspiration comes from songs and poems. One little line in a favorite song or poem can inspire an entire novel. I don’t listen to music when writing, however. When I write fiction I need to focus and music distracts me. Right now, as I write this reply, I’m listening to Beethoven’s Ninth. Glorious! I have extremely diverse taste in music; it’s very, very important to me. Books I write tend to have a theme song, rather than a playlist. Blue Galaxy’s song was Small World by Scottish singer/songwriter Roddy Frame. Blue Nebula’s song is My Beloved Monster by the Eels.

I tend to do that, too. Nexus Point was written mostly to Air Supply. Priestess of the Eggstone's theme some is Don't Answer Me by Alan Parsons Project.
What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?

I highly recommend Absolute Write. I’ve learned so much from that community and met many of my current beta readers, critique partners and writer friends through it. I don’t think my writing would have reached publishable standard without it. It’s a huge community and can be a little intimidating. I recommend to aspiring writers that they register and spend some time lurking, reading, learning and asking questions. My best writing advice is read a lot, particularly in the genre in which you write.  And then? Put your butt in a chair, your fingers on the keyboard and just do it. Get honest feedback, work on your craft, expect to be rejected at first, and acquire a thick skin. The writing business is a tough one.

What writers inspired you to become an author?

My favorite writers didn’t inspire me. They terrified me. I knew then and still know now that I’ll never be as good as Vladimir Nabokov, Octavia Butler, Jane Austen, Ray Bradbury and their brilliant ilk. But I tell a good story.  And I’m improving all the time.

Any special appearances or events coming up that you want to mention?

Blue Nebula will be released by Carina Press on September 24th of this year. It’s the sequel to Blue Galaxy, also from Carina Press. You can read a snippet from Nebula here. I’m currently writing Blue Planet, the final part of the trilogy.

If you could travel to any time in history, when would you visit?

All of them! Well, as long as I could get back to the time of rights for women, birth control, antibiotics and the Hubble telescope. I have a degree in History and my perfect career would have been to be a permanent student. Alas, I have bills I must pay. I’ve been reading a lot of Victorian-era non-fiction recently, so, if I really must choose just one, I’d like to strap on my bustle and go visit the early Suffragettes.

If you could have dinner with any of your characters, which ones would you choose? What food would you serve?

My characters, Vin and Mako, from Mako’s Bounty are spacers: born on hardscrabble mining colonies in the vacuum, raised on freeze-dried nutripacks and always hungry for  the fascinating flavors of Earth. I’d cook them a Mexican feast. Or rather, I’d have my husband do it. He’s an amazing cook.

If you could travel anywhere, on earth or off, where would you go?

Back before I had kids I traveled quite extensively. I miss it! I’d like to travel far enough north to see the Aurora Borealis. I’d love to travel to South America through the Darien Gap. I’ve always wanted to island-hop across the Pacific. Life is so damn short!

What color would you wear if you had only one choice?

Black. When I moved to Upstate New York from Los Angeles, people were forever asking me why I always dressed in black. They didn’t know I was a PIB (People in Black). I’ve changed. Today I’m wearing green and cream.

Describe your dream writing spot.

It’s a boat on a lake in Canada. I’m going in a couple of weeks, clutching my trusty Alphasmart. I’ve written two books on that boat. I’m aiming for a third.

Thanks for having me, Jaleta!

Thanks for stopping by, Diane. Can I join you on your boat sometime? It sounds very peaceful to me.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Twice-Baked Potatoes

I know it's summer and it's hot. But these are so tasty. If you make a big batch ahead of time, you can keep them in the fridge and just microwave them as needed. They'll keep for up to a week. They make a great side dish for summer cookouts, too. You can heat them on the grill to go with steak or burgers or even hot dogs and chicken. Try them sometime. They even work for a main dish.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

12 potatoes, medium to large work best, scrubbed well. DO NOT PEEL
1/2 c. sour cream
1/4 c. chopped green onion
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1 t. onion powder
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 c. cooked, crumbled bacon (optional)

Heat oven to 400°. Place potatoes on foil lined baking sheet. Bake for about an hour, until potatoes are done. Let cool for at least 1 hour.

Slice potatoes in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop out the center, leaving a shell with the peel. Set the shells back on the baking sheet. Put the potato insides into a mixing bowl. Repeat with all potatoes. You should have 24 shells and a mound of baked potato middles when you finish.

Now the fun begins. Add the sour cream, onions, spices, cheese, and bacon to the potato middles. Mash together until it's a creamy mess. (BTW, these make really delicious mashed potatoes if you want to give up and just eat the shells as potato skins, but if you keep going, you won't regret it.) If it's too stiff, stir in a couple tablespoons of milk. You want a thick mashed potato consistency.

Scoop the mashed potato mix into each shell, mounding it slightly. It should fill all the shells nicely. You can stop and refrigerate them at this point. They'll keep for about a week. Just make sure they are tightly covered. Microwave a few at a time as needed for meals, or stick them on the grill until they're hot, or:

Heat oven to 400°. Bake the filled potatoes for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the potatoes are hot.


Use anything you'd use on loaded mashed potatoes:
diced sweet onion (about 1/2 c. will do)
any variety of cheese, don't stop with cheddar, try parmesan with pepperoni
1 t. of paprika with more sprinkled over the top
1 c. cooked, crumbled sausage or hamburger
1 c. cubed ham
1 c. chopped broccoli

OR fill the shells with thick chili and save the mashed potato insides for another day

Dairy free option: Substitute mayonnaise for the sour cream. Or use 1/2 c. canned coconut milk. Use goat cheese or skip the cheese entirely.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Writing, Re-Writing, and Editing, Oh My!

I've been over my head in rewrites and edits for my series, The Fall of the Altairan Empire. I wrote all eleven books before I sold the first one. Nexus Point came out in December 2009. Priestess of the Eggstone, book 2, comes out August 10. The rest aren't scheduled yet, but I'm working them over so when the publisher asks, I can hand him a finished manuscript. I don't know about other authors, but in some ways, the rewrites and edits are the dreaded part of my writing.

I love putting that new story down on paper, discovering new characters and settings, surprising myself with twists and turns of the plot, struggling to figure out how to get out of the corner I just wrote myself into. It refreshing. I get completely absorbed in the story to the point I start setting places at the table for my characters. (Yes, I really did that. Ask my kids...)

Rewrites are tough. I'm struggling with book 3 right now. I know I need to fix the first half, but figuring out how is proving difficult. I've already written the rest of the series. What if I chop out a crucial piece of foreshadowing? What if I cut a scene they all refer back to in later books? It's like taking apart a jigsaw puzzle, losing half the pieces, then putting the remainder back together into a new picture that's almost like the old one.

I'm also fighting with the name. I've never liked the working title. I need something catchy and intriguing that hints at the plot without giving it away. I hate coming up with titles. I'm rotten at it. With my luck, as soon as I find a title I love, the publisher will ask me to change it.

On to Edits. Painful edits, mostly because I've learned a lot about the craft of writing since I wrote those books. But the stories are good. I find myself getting caught up in the story, even though I wrote it, I want to know what happens next. Book 4 and book 5 have weathered edits fairly well. Minor tweaks, mostly. The plot holds together, pacing is good, characters shine. I'm almost afraid to start on book 6. I know it needs some rewriting but not where or how, yet. Beta readers are invaluable here. I'm waiting on feedback for book 4.

So what do you love about writing? Creating characters and settings? The plot? Getting that first draft down? Or do you enjoy the editing process most?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thursday Recipe - Chicken Salad

I came across a recipe for turkey noodle salad in a Taste of Home magazine years ago. It is the inspiration for this recipe. Notice I said inspiration. My husband once accused me of never making the same dish twice. He's pretty close to correct. I rarely follow a recipe, at least the way it's written. I make my own variations and substitutions all over the place based on my mood and what ingredients I have or don't have. Some of my best meals happened because I didn't quite have the right ingredients to make what I'd planned.

Please note that I absolutely loathe chicken and grape salad. You know, where someone put cooked chicken, grapes, and celery in a bowl and smothered it in mayonnaise. *shudder* This is NOT that recipe. There are NO GRAPES anywhere in the vicinity of this dish. (Oops, I lied. I have a bowl of grapes on the table next to the bowl of chicken salad. But the grapes are not IN the salad. That would be WRONG and NASTY. And I'm done using all caps, now that I've made my feelings known.)

So, without further digression, here's the recipe:

Chicken Salad

1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. milk
1/4 c. brown sugar
dash of soy sauce
6 c. cooked noodles, whatever shape you fancy
3 c. cooked chicken, cut up into small bits (use one of those deli chickens if you want or leftover fried chicken, just peel off the skin, or cook a couple of frozen chicken breasts)
1 c. chopped bell peppers (I used red, yellow, and green, just for color kicks)
3 green onions, sliced up small

Mix mayonnaise, milk, brown sugar, and soy sauce until everything is blended and the sauce is creamy. Add everything else. Toss to coat everything, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let everything blend.

Variations: Add any or all of the following:
1/4 c. chopped red onion
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. sliced water chestnuts
1/4 c. chopped roasted peanuts
1/2 c. peeled chopped cucumber
1/4 c. thin sliced radishes
1/4 c. chopped olives

1/2 t. coarse ground black pepper
1 t. ground ginger

Siracha (Thai chili sauce) to taste

Monday, July 2, 2012

Musical Monday

I need music in my house. I use it to set the mood when I write, and to drown out the sound of my children playing video games, arguing, breaking things, cooking, etc. Considering my youngest child is now nine and the oldest at home is 24, I feel safe ignoring them. They're pretty self-sufficient. With the music loud enough, I can concentrate on my writing instead of them.

I use music at work, too. I'm back to running the food for space camp for a couple of months. I play music nice and loud in the cafeteria during meal times. Despite what the staff at work may think, there is method to my madness in choosing the playlist I do. It's meant to be fun and add to the mood. And yes, some of the music is meant to drive you insane. It's also meant to broaden your musical horizons. I play a bit of everything from charleston dance music to Andean flute music to popular Broadway tunes to tv show themes to pop songs to video game music.

My iTunes stats: 5798 items, 13.8 days, 20.29 G of music. I don't have enough yet...

Some of my recent acquisitions:

Unchained Melody: The Very Best of the Righteous Brothers I have a thing for old DooWop music and the 50s. These are some great songs. My copy looks a bit different, but I picked it out of the $5 bin at WalMart. Another bonus to buying the oldies and classical. Nick McKaig - I discovered this guy a few weeks ago. He is amazing. Everything you hear in one of his performances is him doing all the instruments, voices, whatever. I love his voice, too. I bought his album through the iTunes store and I'm thrilled with it. Christina Perri: A Thousand Years - I'm late to the party. I'm not a fan of Twilight, not in the least. But I love this song. I bought Christina Perri's album through iTunes because I've enjoyed her songs when my daughter played them or when I caught them on the radio. She sings lyrical songs with an almost folk vibe. - TV show themes! This site has a gazillion files to download of tv music. The quality is all over the place, but where else can you get your Bonanza fix or, my favorite, Buck Rogers opening credits music? I could spend hours on that site...

Do you write to music? What groups are your favorites? What have you discovered recently?