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

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Lemon Blueberry Fluff

Summer is definitely here, even if it is weird weather where I live. We've had more rain this summer than we usually get all spring, summer, and fall combined. And we only had one week of 100+ (or close to it) temperatures. Still, I had cravings for a nice cool dessert that wasn't too heavy or hard to make. This is one of the few fruity-type salads I like, but probably because we serve it as dessert instead of salad.

Lemon Blueberry Fluff

1 c. lemon yogurt
1 8-oz tub of whipped topping (or whipped cream)
1 20-oz can blueberry pie filling (or use the recipe below for homemade)

Stir yogurt and whipped topping together. Blend in blueberry pie filling. Refrigerate for at least two hours.

Serve with graham crackers or gingersnaps or vanilla wafers.

Homemade Blueberry Pie Filling
*also good for pancake topping, waffle topping, or just eating

3 c. blueberries
1/2 c. sugar
3 T. cornstarch
1/3 c. water

Mix everything together and toss until well mixed. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until mixture thickens and boils. Let cool.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Free book site

So I signed up for this free promo site. They promise to send my book to readers who sign up on their site. No money involved, but it's a way to reach new readers and build a bigger audience for my work.

What do you think of this? Would you sign up for a site that promises to email you a free book every week? Do free books make you a little leery?

I guess my real question is, "Will this work for me as an author as a way to promote my books and get more readers which will translate into more sales?"

What questions do you ask about free book sites?

Here's the link to Book Breeze. Check it out and see what you think. Then let me know. And in the meantime, enjoy some free books for your ereaders.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Easy Bottled Salsa

This is the fastest, easiest salsa recipe I've ever used. It's just four ingredients. I bottled it in quart jars. My kids devoured it as soon as it was opened. All six quarts disappeared within a couple of months. I originally meant to use this for chili, but it was so good as just salsa we ate it plain.

As always, if you are going to bottle it, follow the recommendations for home canning and storage. This site is a great resource. Once my tomatoes start producing, I'm going to try all those lovely recipes on the site and see how they turn out.

Easy Bottled Salsa

lots of fresh ripe tomatoes

For each quart bottle:
3-4 jalapeño peppers (more for hotter salsa)
1/4 c. vinegar (5% acidity, use commercial white or cider vinegar)
1 T. canning/pickling salt (this doesn't have additives that can discolor your product)

To prep tomatoes:
Wash the tomatoes in cold water. Remove stems.

Get a really large pot and fill it with hot water. Bring to a boil. Drop tomatoes into the boiling water. Boil for 1-2 minutes, until skins start to split. Remove from the boiling water and dump into a large sink or bowl filled with very cold water. I use my pasta cooker because it makes getting the tomatoes in and out of the water easier.

Once the tomatoes cool down, pull off the skin and discard. Chop tomatoes into large chunks. If they have bruised spots or bad spots, cut them out and discard them.

To prep peppers:
USE GLOVES!!! I didn't use them once because I thought, I'm just doing a couple of peppers, I'll be careful. I had hot pepper juice on my hands for a couple of days despite washing with soap and everything else I could think of. I got it on my nose, in my eyes—you get the picture. Use gloves and be careful!

Wash the peppers. Slice them lengthwise into halves. If you want less heat, scrape out the seeds and membranes and discard. Slice off the stem end and discard. Chop the peppers into small pieces. One pepper should yield about 1-2 tablespoons of chopped bits.

To make the salsa:
Shove tomato chunks into a clean quart jar until it's about half full. Make sure you smash them down to eliminate air pockets. Add peppers on top of tomatoes. If you want hotter salsa, use hotter peppers and/or add more pieces. For milder salsa, you can use banana peppers or just put a lot fewer pepper bits in the jar. Add the 1/4 c. vinegar and the 1 T. pickling salt. Finish filling the jar with more tomatoes until about 1/2 inch from the top.

Clean off the top rim. Use a fresh canning lid and process in a water bath to seal according to your local area recommendations. I usually process quarts for 35-40 minutes, but I'm also at about 5500 feet altitude. The higher your altitude, the longer you need to process jars. Let the jars cool completely.

Shake up the salsa to distribute the peppers and salt. Wash off the outside of the jar. Store in a cool dry place.

Or just make a quart or two and keep it in the fridge for up to a week. Eat fresh!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Movie Review - Cinderella

We make it to the movie theater only a couple of times a year even though my neighbor owns our local theater and it's only $4 a ticket. It's just one of those things that I keep meaning to do but never find the time. Besides my couch is comfy and I have a large library of movies waiting to be watched. Most of them are bad 80s SF/F movies, but that's beside the point.

Long story short, my hubby and I ran away to the movies and saw Cinderella, the live-action one Disney released a while ago. I'm late to the party, but for what it's worth, here's my take on the movie.

Cinderella is a sweet fairy tale that stays fairly true to it's animated counterpart. It was watchable and entertaining, a solid good movie, but not great. It had a few great moments, like when the stepsister is "singing", but it was mostly like cheap vanilla ice cream - bland and predictable but still good.

All the way through the movie I kept comparing it to other versions of Cinderella. Some of it, namely the stepsisters and stepmother's wardrobes, reminded me very much of the multi-ethnic musical movie version that came out a while back. It was funny but terrible. Of course there were the obvious parallels with the animated movie, which I loved at one time but I guess I've outgrown. But the biggest one I wanted and kept not finding was "Ever After," although at least one scene stole the dialogue and everything from a similar scene in "Ever After."

So, if you're looking for a predictable "safe" princess movie for the kids who want more than animation, this is a good movie. Sweet, likable characters; villains who aren't really that villainous; a cameo appearance by Lucifee, the cat; a nice storyline that isn't too scary or intense—Cinderella has them all.

But if you're looking for a Cinderella movie that takes it up to a whole new level, go find Ever After instead. Angelica Houston's performance in that movie is magnitudes better than the bland version Cate Blanchett dishes out.

Cinderella - B, good for family viewing

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Southern Whatchagot Stew

I ended up with a fridge full of vegetables the other day, so I did what I usually do. I made whatchagot stew. It turned out tasty so I thought I'd save the recipe to share.

If you don't know about whatchagot stew and stone soup, check out this post for the full story. Here's the bean-n-ham version and the curry version.

Marjoram is my herb of choice lately. It has almost a licorice flavor to it that pairs really well with vegetables. It's a mellower flavor than oregano or thyme or rosemary, but similar in a lot of ways. A little goes a long way.

Southern Watchagot Stew

1 T. butter
1 onion, minced
4 ribs celery with leaves, chopped
4 small carrots, chopped small
2 large cloves of garlic, mashed and minced
4 green onions, chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
4 ears corn, boiled
1 16-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 T. chicken bouillon
1 t. dried marjoram
1 t. dried sage
2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1 bunch collard greens, washed, stems removed, and sliced into bite-size pieces

Melt butter over med-low heat in a large stockpot, at least 1 gallon size. Add onion, celery, and carrots. Sauté until softened, about 5-8 minutes. Add garlic. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add sweet potato, corn, black beans, and seasonings. Add enough water to cover. Put the lid on the pot and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add collard greens. Cover and simmer until everything is done, about 30 minutes. Soup will hold for 3-4 hours on low heat.

Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with sourdough bread. Cheese also goes good on top of this soup - sharp cheddar or a good parmesan are both great.

I also added broccoli and a little bit of mashed potatoes to mine, because I had them and they needed used. That's what makes this whatchagot—use whatchagot in the fridge. I just happened to have a lot of southern staples so I used them.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Debut Author - Introducing James Darcey!

Welcome to the Far Edge of Normal. Please, introduce yourself.
I was born in the middle of a tropical swamp on the third planet orbiting a distant yellow star. Growing up the son of a military father meant that books were among my best friends. They traveled with me every time I moved, and took me on adventures that nothing short of a trans-dimensional portal could hope to achieve. Currently I reside in a place called Utah, on the shores of a dead sea, with my wife and fellow author Molly. My days are spent catering to the whims of machines that devour people whole, and regurgitate them at distant locations. At other times I am working on my writing. Oddly enough, I never excelled in studies of my native language during my years as a scholar. Vocationally, I geared my efforts toward things that worked with power – from nuclear reactors to toasters. I spent ten years plying those skills aboard mobile artificial islands.

What a way to phrase it, sounds so exotic. How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. - please share your public links.
I don't spend a lot of time on the social networks, but here is my Facebook Author Page. I am going to be keeping it better updated now that there's an actual book to brag about.

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?
My stories fall firmly in the realm of science fiction and fantasy. That is to say, stories with science that doesn’t exist, and works of fantasy that differ from the mundane world most of us reside in for the sake of a paycheck. My books include the series with Ion, A swords and sorcery fantasy series that has yet to see publication of more than short stories, and a futuristic sci-fi set. For my favorites, I’m torn between Ion and the fantasy world. I set aside a few dozen story ideas to focus on the re-editing of current books. I’m hoping to get Ion 417:Raiu (book 2) back from the editor before end of the year.

What about you as a person? What do you do to relax? Favorite movies or tv shows? Hobbies?
I relax to movies or model building. My TV watching is either whatever Molly was watching, or certain Anime, with the occasional forensic themed show.

What gets your creative juices going? Do you write to a music, and do you want to share your playlist?
Ideas pop through my head from the oddest places. Advertising is one of the biggest sources. It often produces the thought ‘didn’t they think about that?’. Something like “Ocean breeze in a can.” Prompts thoughts of typhoons available at the touch of an aerosol can. That’s when my mind adds in the cackling scientist holding Honolulu for ransom, all because some advertiser thought I needed air freshener.
Music is not something I get to enjoy for much of my writing. Most of my writing happens in places where music just can't work. When I do have the chance, classic rock is to my liking.

"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?
James Bond, Austin Powers, Inspector Gadget, Maxwell Smart, and many others faced off against mega villains holding cats. I suppose that authors fit within the category of mega villains. Most of us are devout serial killers that successfully evade prosecution for years if not decades. Personally, I’ve owned a few fish, catered to a few dogs, and tolerated several purring roommates. Currently two of the felines take turns making sure I know they own the house. One of them holds nightly staring contests perched on my chest, and the other starts bringing stuffed toys at about 3am.

What organizations do you recommend for those wanting to become writers? Any advice you'd like to share about writing?
The National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo, has been the gateway into all of the other groups I'm a part of. Have a question? They are better than Google for getting the answer you need. It was through them that I found the Utah Writers Guild, LTUE, Speculitive Writers of Utah, and others.
My advice to aspiring authors is simple, just write consistently. I know it sounds cliche, but it's true. There are many people out there that spend a great deal of time trying to learn all the secrets before setting any words to the page. Write the story. Let the thoughts flow into reality without a look back. Once you have the story down, go back and read over it, correcting anything that doesn't make sense. Add in all those wonderful details that bring stories to life. Read over it a second time, making sure the plot works, and there aren't any glaring problems. Notice that I haven't said anything about panicking over punctuation or spelling, because you shouldn't. Now read the story ALOUD to the cat. This will bring out those hidden things your mind has been skipping over because you already know the story. Once it passes the cat test, then set it aside while you write something else. Let the story age for a few weeks to a few months before coming back to it. You will be amazed at what you see in it.
I write nearly every single day. Sometimes for 20 minutes, and other times for several hours. Things I wrote years ago, and thought fantastic at the time, are worthy of gagging now.

What writers inspired you to become an author?
I could rattle off a dozen authors that had great influence in my enjoyment of stories. Asimov, Heinlien, McCaffrey, Cherryh, Norton, Bradley, Tolkein, and several others. Many people attirbute their writing to some other author. I attribute mine to games. Role playing games demanded the bringing to life of a character. This person seemingly sprang to life with all the skills of an adventurer, and none of the back story. Authors of my childhood had set my mind on fantastical worlds and thoughts. I couldn't have a character that was a 30 year old mage who poofed into existence one day. There had to be a story behind him. What drove him to pursue the world of magic? Why did he ever leave home in the first place? The games only covered what happened after that point, and expected nothing of a history. I started creating histories for my characters. Those histories expanded into stories that outlasted the games.

Any special appearances or events coming up that you want to mention?
November is fast approaching, and that brings another NaNoWriMo. Not too long after that will be LTUE. There's others that I can't think of right now, and I'll probably panic when I find out some event is less than a week away.

If you could travel to any time in history, when would you visit?
The problem with history is that it was never as glamorous as what the stories portray. The middle ages are fasinating, but I really prefer the modern comforts of indoor plumbing. It would be fun to visit, for a few hours though. My choice would be all of them. I'm an explorer at heart. 

If you could have dinner with any of your characters, which ones would you choose? What food would you serve?
It would be a tough choice between Ion Ryukan and Phantarra Courggh. Both are adventurous and go through a lot. Ion travels the Galaxy, finding new adventures as she tries to find her place in life. Phantarra is equally an explorer, though her travels stick to a single world. As for Menu, Sushi would be the best choice for either of them. Ion is discovering the wonders of Japanese cuisine, and Phantarra is a feline hominid sailor.

If you could travel anywhere, on earth or off, where would you go?
Earth and Mars are the only two places that we've got good information about. I've already seen a lot of Earth, though I could spend a few hundred years exploring the rest of it. Not much to see on Mars right now. Give me a Tardis and I'd do my best to explore everything else in the Galaxy. There's a lot of places to visit.

What color would you wear if you had only one choice?
Green. I tend to end up in blues a lot, but green would be my choice.

Describe your dream writing spot.
Comfortable chair with a good desk. Yes, though I don't often get the pleasure of it, music on the mp3. In reality, several stories have been jotted down in the pocket notebook while perched on the top of a train. When inspiration strikes, gotta have someplace to jot it down.

Thanks for visiting, James!
Please go check out his debut novel - Ion 417.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Stroganoff Meatballs

This is one of those "I have no idea what to cook so we'll throw together whatever is in the fridge" meals. Way too delicious!

I used rice milk in the meatballs so my daughter could still eat them, but the sauce is obviously total dairy. Please don't try substituting non-dairy stuff for the sour cream and cheese. I won't be responsible for whatever may happen afterwards.

Stroganoff Meatballs

1 lb hamburger
2 eggs
1 c. quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1 1/2 t. seasoned salt
1/2 c. milk (I used rice milk, so it doesn't have to come from a cow)
1 12 oz package egg noodles
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. Sartori Montamoré cheese (or a mix of monterey jack and parmesan or similar cheeses, you want one that will melt into lovely goo and one that gives the sharp tangy taste)
salt and pepper to taste
chopped parsley or chives (NOT cilantro, *shudder*) for garnish

Mix hamburger, eggs, oatmeal, pepper, seasoned salt, and milk together until well blended. Scoop into meatballs. I used a mini muffin pan and this recipe made 24 of them. Bake at 400° for 17-20 minutes, until lightly browned and no longer pink in the middle.

While the meatballs are cooking, cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a saucepan, mix the sour cream and crumbled (or shredded) cheese together. Heat over medium low heat just until hot and the cheese starts to melt.

To assemble:
Scoop noodles onto a plate, arrange 3-4 meatballs on top, spoon sauce over everything. Garnish with parsley or chives. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.

Makes 4-6 servings depending on how hungry you are.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Bargain Cheese

Our local grocery store has this thing they do that I love. They mark things down, sometimes just a little, sometimes 90% off, usually about half off. I find these lovely orange and yellow "Manager's Special" labels and go kind of crazy. I know exactly where in the store they hide all the discount bins. Our menu for the week depends on what bargain specials I find.

So the other day, I'm poking through a bin of bargain deli items and find this white cheese. It looks okay, no moldy spot or weird looking fuzzy bits inside the wrapper, so I take it home to try it out.

Best cheese decision ever!

It's Sartori Montamoré cheese. It melts into a creamy goo of scrumptious delectable cheesiness. Slightly sharp (like parmesan and swiss had a baby) a little sweet, sort of nutty, and creamy when cooked, it was absolutely delightful. I ate way more than I should have, especially when we used it to make a stroganoff sauce for meatballs and noodles. Recipe forthcoming on Thursday. It was that good.

So, books, like cheese, sometimes get marked down as bargains. I can't resist if the cover looks at all intriguing. Usually it only takes a few pages before you realize why the poor book has been relegated to the bargain table. But every once in a while, you get a real gem.

Back in the late '80s, Science Fiction Book Club had a book on clearance for about $3. Titled "The Colour of Magic" by Terry Pratchett, it caught my eye. I'd never heard of him, but the book sounded like it might be fun and $3 isn't much so I gave it a shot. I adored that book and bought every other book I could find that he wrote, especially his Discworld series. He was like Douglas Adams on Prozac, a happier, gentler kind of satire. Sadly, he passed away a few months ago. The world has lost another comic genius.

Have you ever bought a bargain item that was worth every penny and a whole lot more? Tell me about it in the comments!

And speaking of bargains, if you haven't snagged a copy of Nexus Point yet, the ebook is only ninety-nine cents.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Butterscotch Brownies

My oldest son has been experimenting in my kitchen. He loves butterscotch brownies and has been playing around with some variations. We're still working out the bugs in those recipes, but here's the original version.

Butterscotch Brownies

1/3 c. butter
1 2/3 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 1/2 c. flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla, eggs, baking powder, and salt. Blend well. Stir in flour. Spread in a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes. Let cool before eating.