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

Monday, February 19, 2018

Whoops

It's been a wild week. Which is why this post is late and short. Too much going on and things have been crazy.

I was at RadCon all weekend. Hats off to the committee for organizing a great con. Was it perfect? No, there were some issues. But there are always going to be issues. I had a blast. Thank you for putting it together.

If you've never been to a science fiction/fantasy convention, try one out. The small local cons can be a wonderful experience. Most areas have one.

Next week, I've got a book review up. Thursday, I've got a secret family recipe for Irish Soda Bread.

If you have suggestions for blog topics or posts you'd like to see, please let me know. After doing this every week, pretty much, for eight years, I'm running a little short on ideas for posts.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thursday Recipe?

I'm out of new ideas for recipes.

But I'm working on ideas for a searchable cookbook online. Stay tuned for developments.

Meanwhile, share a link to your favorite recipe!

Monday, February 12, 2018

It's Coming...

No, not Valentine's Day, though that is just around the corner and we're going to celebrate 32 years of marriage this year on that day. It's not RadCon, but yes, I will be there next week to talk about writing and books and geek stuff and admire costumes.

It's another audio book!

Well, two actually.

Poisoned Pawn, Book 3 of the Altairan Empire series, is in the final stages of editing. The audiobook should be out by the end of February, depending on how long it takes ACX to vet it. I'll post links when they're ready.

And after a year of delays and problems, Dark Dancer is underway again. I'm hoping to have it out by summer.

Book 4 of the series, Kumadai Run, should start production later this year.

It's moving but slowly.

Meanwhile in other publishing news, I've got a slew of short stories coming out in various anthologies. I'm still working through some health issues, but I'm ready to start tackling those long-overdue novels.

So if you enjoy my writing, there is more on the way. I'm hoping to get another short story collection out by summer. And lots more fun stuff into production.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Thursday Recipe - German Marble Cake

I ran across this recipe a while back and printed it out so I could try it sometime. That time came today. And boy am I glad I tried it. This cake is delicious! This is my take on the recipe - a little lighter on the butter and sugar and if you want to try whole wheat flour for half of the white flour, let me know how it turns out for you. I was being lazy and didn't do that this time.

It's pretty easy, too. Mine isn't quite as swirly and pretty, but I was being lazy and trying to keep it to a one-bowl-one-pan-one-spatula recipe because I hate doing dishes.

And I'm in love with bundt pans at the moment. And cake.

German Marble Cake

3/4 c. butter, softened
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 t. almond extract
1 T. baking powder
1/8 t. salt
4 eggs
1 c. milk
3 1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. baking cocoa
1 t. rum flavoring
2 T. milk

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a bundt pan and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar. Add almond extract, baking powder, and salt. Beat until creamy. Scrape down the sides a couple of times to make sure everything is well mixed. Add eggs. Beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides. Add the milk. Beat until very smooth.

Stir in the flour. Beat until smooth.

Pour half the batter into the prepared bundt pan.

To the rest of the batter, add the cocoa, rum flavoring, and extra milk. Stir until mixed.

Pour the chocolate batter over the almond batter in the pan. Run the spatula through the batter a couple of times to give it the swirl effect. Don't overmix, you want swirls, not a light chocolate cake.

Bake for about 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool 5-10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a fancy plate. Let it finish cooling. Or eat it warm. It's so tasty it doesn't need frosting.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Movie Review - Captain Underpants

I admit I enjoy a good fart joke. And I enjoy the Captain Underpants books. So the other day when we were all suffering from the flu and needed something to watch, we turned on Captain Underpants. It was the only thing on Netflix that we actually wanted to watch. (That's a whole separate rant - Netflix has a much better user interface but crappy selection, Hulu has a better selection of shows but a really crappy interface. Don't get me started...)

So here's the review: Captain Underpants is an awesome romantic comedy.

It dawned on me partway through the movie that they were following the basic storyboard for a romcom. Completely. Including the cheesy musical montage number about a third of the way through. It was awesome.

The story is told, and partially illustrated, by the two main characters, George and Harold, mischievous grade-schoolers who adore a good prank. They have a great romance going - bff's forever. The villain, sort of, is Principal Krupp, who is determined to subjugate them and crush all joy from the kids at the school. He also has a shot at romance with Edna the Lunch Lady.

Things get a lot more complicated. Yes, it involves a superhero wearing just his underwear and a cape. But Captain Underpants is awesome. It involves giant robotic toilets. And lots and lots of gags that third-grade boys find hilarious. I know, I work with a whole bunch of them in Cub Scouts.

But the movie rises above the potty humor. It never reaches the point where I just want it to stop. They keep it light. The story is actually a pretty good story. The animation is beautifully done.

And the romance is a tear-jerker. So sweet...

Overall, this was one fun romp of a movie.

Four stars, with some mild violence and a few Poopypants jokes.

Okay, I admit I'm very biased about Captain Underpants. The books potty trained one of my kids. I will love him forever...

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Thursday Recipe - GingerBundt Cake

I've been on a cake kick ever since Christmas. I got a new bundt pan and I love it. Cakes can be so easy to make, too. This one has the great flavors of gingerbread in a fluffy, delicious cake. Serve it with lemon sauce, whipped topping, ice cream, or even hot fudge or caramel.

The mix of honey and molasses gives a lighter taste and color to the cake. I prefer it. If you want the full dark taste, go ahead and use just molasses. If you want a much lighter cake, try using all honey instead.

GingerBundt Cake

1/2 c. molasses
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cardamom
1/4 t. allspice or ground cloves
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 large egg
1 c. sour cream
2 c. flour

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

Cream molasses, honey, butter, brown sugar, and spices together. Stir in baking soda, salt, egg, and sour cream. Beat until lighter in color and everything is well mixed. Scrape the sides several times to make sure all of it is mixed in.

Stir in flour. Beat for 1 minute at low speed.

Pour batter into bundt pan. It will be thick. Spread until pan is evenly filled.

Bake at 325° for 45-50 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool 3-5 minutes before turning out of the pan onto a plate.

Serve warm or cold.

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.