More rejections!

More rejections!

Good news; I have another two rejections!

My pile is growing bigger, so I’m starting to feel more like an actual writer. Plus I’m becoming cheeky and worrying about submitting less. I’m not confident, but I’m not terrified either. Progress!

A new Mount Olympus

A new Mount Olympus

A Few Good Men
By Sarah Hoyt
Baen, 384 pp., $14.00

A Few Good Men by Sarah Hoyt is the third book in her clever space opera Darkship series although in this newest edition most of the action occurs on Earth. The novel starts with a dedication to Usaian, explanation to follow, Glenn Harlan Reynolds of Instapundit.com fame. Instantly I knew this book was something special.

**Please note this review has spoilers from the previous books due to ongoing revelations about the Mules. Also the second and third books occur at the same time, meaning that at the end book one, the stories diverge and then towards the end of book two and three the story lines coverage, before they separate again. Despite the convergence, they should still be read in order: Darkship Thieves, Darkship Renegades, and A Few Good Men. Check out the previous review here and here.

On Earth, Thena’s rescue of Kit from Never-Never, the maximum-security facility (Book One), allowed a Good Man clone to escape. Lucius Dante Maximilian Keeva had been imprisoned at age 21, by his “Father” for 15 years, but kept alive and in good health as a back up body. He returns home to find his Father dead and Max, his younger brother dead too, so ascends as the next Good Man Keeva, with no knowledge of his true state and purpose, nor any information from the past 15 years. Lucius reaches out to an old friend, but the old friend is now a Good Man with a transplant and he deduces Lucius is just the clone, not the real Good Man Keeva. The Good Men network immediately and repeatedly attacks Lucius. He survives and

Nat reveals the truth to Lucius – why he’d been imprisoned, how he has bioengineered enhancing due to cloning, how the Good Men arose during the turmoils, how they keep control – and more importantly, Nat seeks help to defend Lucius from a religion called the Usaians, in the hope that this could start the revolution. Lucius is revolted by their ideas but slowly, over many discussions, decides that he too is a Usaian, as he believes in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The revolution against the Good Men on Earth commences.

This book is action-packed with prison break-outs and break-ins, skirmishes, battles and then full out war, and while there are many longer discourses about political systems and structures, they’re solidly grounded in plot movement. Lucius narrates and it’s his version of the revolution that includes his political awakening. He’s a likable, naïve character unbroken by prison and torture, who tells a personal and delayed coming of age story. Since he was raised only for his body, he’d not been well educated nor had he ever spent time on self-reflection, but now with his life, and his city, Olympus, on the line, the pampered princeling is leading a revolution.

Lucius’ ideology changes aren’t forced. The Usaian underground religion and its many factions are believable given the devolution of society. The questions about how far one should go to free others from an oppressive 300-year regime remain timeless. Nat, the other main character, is now fully developed in book three; we better understand his actions, motivations, and hyper-desire for freedom. His growth after Max’s death and his dedication to the Usaians before, during and after the revolution are the stuff of legend.

A Few Good Men is a creative and impressive narrative of how a revolution is sparked in the midst of a plausible future. It’s beautifully interwoven into the preceding two books while also being a great stand-alone story.

Raspberry Muffins

Raspberry Muffins

A sweet, moist, and tasty muffin perfect with any fresh berry. The fruit adds natural sugars so little additional sugar is needed. Fine almond flour layers a subtle nutty flavor plus sneaks in some healthy plant protein. It’s quick to make and always a great breakfast or snack option.

Ingredients

  • 2.5 rounded cups almond flour (very fine)
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 1/4 t baking soda
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 3/4 t cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs and 1 small
  • 2 T and 2 t oil
  • 2 T and 2 t plain yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 T almond flour
  • 1 t coconut palm sugar

Process

  • Preheat oven to 425.
  • Oil a 12-muffin tin.
  • Mix, using a whisk, the dry ingredients, excluding the last T of flour and t of sugar.
  • In a smaller bowl mix, using a whisk, the wet ingredients.
  • Combine wet and dry ingredients.  It’s ok if there are lumps in the dough.
  • Wash raspberries. Coat with the remaining flour and sugar. This stops the color from bleeding into the muffins.
  • Gently fold in raspberries.
  • Spoon batter into muffin pan, filling each cup to just below the brim.
  • Bake for 5 minutes, then decrease heat to 350 and continue to cook until tops of muffins are lightly golden and dry to the touch, 15-20 minutes more.
  • Enjoy fresh out of the oven. Since the fruit is fresh, they are best the day of baking. If you have any left overs, then you’ll want to consume them no longer than 2 days later.

Credit

The above recipe is a slightly modified version from The Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition May 16-17, 2015.

Lemonade Chia Scone Loaf

Lemonade Chia Scone Loaf

Apologies for the recipe title confusion! Is it a scone or a loaf? Our New Zealand and Australian friends have a modified scone recipe that was too fun to not push a bit further. Of course it’s now gluten free and for an extra twist it’s a loaf, not scones. For it’s avant-garde appearance it’s rather traditional in that you may consume it a la carte or with clotted cream and jam.  It’s tastes best with black tea. Healthy chia seeds also add flavor and texture.

 

Ingredients

  • 3 c self rising gluten free flour (like Pam’s)
  • 2 T coconut flour
  • 2 T chia seeds
  • Zest from 2 small lemons, slice the remaining lemon
  • 250 ml lemonade style soda water
  • 8 oz heavy whipping cream
  • coconut palm sugar for sprinkling

 

Process

  • Preheat oven to 450.
  • Oil the bread pans. I use magic pan (7.5 by 3.5) loafs.
  • Mix the flours, chia seeds and zest.
  • Add the lemonade and cream. Lightly mix until blended then let rest so chia seeds may absorb the moisture (10 min); don’t over mix. The chia seeds will do the work and avoid it from becoming too dense.
  • When the mixture is sticky, pour it out into two magic pans.
  • Place a few lemon slices on top and gently sprinkle the tope of the loafs with coconut palm sugar.
  • Bake for 30 minutes on the top shelf, avoiding the center of the oven’s heat.
  • Remove from oven and completely cool in pan prior to removing from the pan.
  • Serve at room temperature.
  • Enjoy!

 

  • Note = I attempted 100 variations to make my own sparkling lemonade. All were a bust, so I went with Niasca Limonata as it had the best blend of ingredients and used cane sugar.

 

Here’s what a slice looks like:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10-Word Story

10-Word Story

I’ve been experimenting with different story lengths and recently ran into a contest by Gotham Writers. Their contest is called the “Very Short Story Contest” and mandates the entire story may be at most 10 words. They’ve based the contest on the Baby Shoe story often credited to Ernest Hemingway.

We’ve all heard the possible versions of what he wrote:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

And the other often mentioned with it:
For sale: wedding dress, never worn.

This 10-word (or less) writing exercise is used at all levels of writing from 2nd graders to graduate students. It pushes the author to reveal enough for the reader to fill in the remainder of the story. Intrigued, I threw my story into the ring. This is not a winner, nor an honorable mention, but a fun attempt.

My Submission:

Rings found at Sal’s Pawn.
I understand. All is forgiven.

 

Check out their contest website. It lists the Winner and Honorable Mentions; they’re great!

Golden Donut Contest 200-Word Story

Golden Donut Contest  200-Word Story

This year a fellow writer told me about the Golden Donut Short Story Contest. It’s a 200-word story based on a photo. I was immediately intrigued and decided I’d give it a shot.

Here are the Contest Rules:

The rules are simple—write a story about the photograph above using exactly 200 words, including the title (each story must include an original title). The image in the photograph MUST be the main subject of the story. We will not provide clues as to the subject matter of the image, or where the shot was taken. That is for you and your imagination to decide. Remember, though, what you see in the image absolutely MUST be the MAIN subject of your tale.

*Again, the photo above absolutely MUST be the main focus of the story, not just a mere mention within the text.

All stories are to be polished and complete, meaning they must have a beginning, middle, and a twisted surprise ending. Again, all stories must be exactly 200 words. Not 201 or 199! So read the word count rules carefully. Over the years, we’ve seen some excellent tales disqualified due to an incorrect word count.

Some notes on word count:

Hyphenated words, for the purpose of this contest, will be counted as two words, or three, etc., depending upon how many words make up the hyphenated phrase/word. Contractions will be counted as two words (it’s, don’t, etc.).

Every single word will be counted as a word. This includes: “a,” “and,” and “the.” To be very clear…if it’s a word, count it. If it’s part of dialog and you think it may be a word, count it. If it’s a stand-alone letter or group of letters, count it as a word. If it’s a number, count it as a word. If the number would include a hyphen if written out as a word, then count it as a hyphenated word. Social media and texting abbreviations will be counted as individual words. For example: OMG = three words. LMAO = four words. 2Nite = one word (tonight). AIAMU = five words (Am I a monkeys uncle). TCIC = 4 words (This contest is cool). 

The 2017 Photo:

My Submission:

Moonshine

Moonlight hit the cobblestone. I transformed and attacked the closest tourist. Howls echoed. Fur flashed. I lived; so did my victim. Failure.

***

Seventy years ago, the Duke’s plan succeeded. He sought death, but to die he needed to infect another where he was infected: this room. He welcomed us, Guernsey child refugees, for it was war and children die in “accidents.”

That night, during the monthly wolf culling, while the villagers hunted and we slept in our bunks, our Guardian appeared in a different form.

His brute strength collapsed the far, locked gate. He pounced wounding us all. Hearing the assault, they raced to the room and killed the dying wolf, already partially reverted. Shocked with this revelation, the gate was repositioned. Later, they set the room ablaze. As I lay dying, my regeneration completed. Immediately engaged by the remaining moonshine, I escaped.

***

I returned for the Estate’s inaugural tour with his plan. Exhausted, alone, and desiring release from my monthly vulnerability, my fangs found no human flesh to infect. In the moonlight, the room had become a den of wolves. Reunited, we previously infected, breached the gate of our transcendence and ran to repopulate the Village.

 

Permission:

Lee Lofland graciously granted me permission to post the photo, rules and my submission. This story didn’t win but it taught me a wonderful lesson: a complete story in 200 words is possible. It also pushed me to write clearer with precise words.

His personal blog is here. The Writers’ Policy Academy website is here.

Kit from The Zeus

Kit from The Zeus

Darkship Renegades
By Sarah Hoyt
Baen, 400 pp., $7.99

Darkship Renegades by Sarah Hoyt continues the space opera excitement while avoiding the sophomoric descent of many second novels in a series. Strap in for more interstellar fun!

**Please note this review has spoilers from the previous book due to ongoing plot revelations. Check out the previous review here.

We resume exactly where Darkship Thieves left off: Thena and Kit docking on the home asteroid of Eden. Upon arrival, Kit is detained as a traitor to Eden for visiting Earth. While his family develops a plan, Thena updates them on their unpleasant visit, and she learns that during their absence Eden’s power supplies were greatly depleted. Good Man Sinistra’s hunt for Thena revealed the darkships’ existence and began an effective hunt to eradicate all ships. Many were lost on runs resulting in fewer returning with the powerpods that provide energy. This loss of powerpods created a power vacuum never before seen on Eden; those who were set up as the Energy Board over 300 years ago suddenly had a different kind of power over others due to scarcity. Their ideal libertarian world was now on the cusp of civil war and was being ruled by a quasi-government.

Kit is voluntarily questioned in front of all Edenites. While it’s proven he didn’t purposefully endanger Eden, retribution for his actions is another trip to Earth in an attempt to bring back Jarl’s writings, for Jarl created the powerpods and with his notes perhaps Eden could grow their own energy. Not everyone agrees with this idea and, as they prepare a ship for the journey, an unknown assailant shoots Kit in the head. Doc Bartolomeu with little choice gives Kit nanites to help repair the damage. Unfortunately, the nanites were imprinted with Jarl’s brain, not Kit’s. It’s now a race against the clock to get to Earth, find Jarl’s notes, and pray they also include a way to stop Kit from having his neural-pathways rewritten and becoming Jarl.

This page-turner book promises to keep you up past your bedtime (again!), but this novel is also interspersed with long dialogs about society. Thena and Kit’s political discussions occur naturally as the plot reveals more about the Mules, their purpose, and Jarl, the pro-human Mule. Jarl betrays his own by leaving them behind, he handpicked those Mules who went to space, and he found a place for their bioengineered servants to thrive. Everyone separated from one another, yet this battalion general’s mistake was to assume he understood everyone’s needs. Book smart and educated by the failing world in which they were created to serve and then lead, he rejected what Mules had become and worked to effect a change.

Hearing Jarl speak through Kit offers a first person viewpoint on these decisions. He generates sympathy despite his lack of compassion, however while the world building discussions are interesting ethnographic studies since much time is spent on the ship traveling it does somewhat eclipse the action and steals some of the thunder from a few plot reveals.

The evolving libertarian world of Eden and the brewing storm of revolutionary changes on Earth remain fascinating in part because they are shown, not told, so the reader experiences it. We see firsthand that agents for change can only estimate so far into the future and then life happens. We also see how little control one really has in a situation. Jarl’s decisions to save the few hurt many. Earth was and is a mess. Eden is also not stable, even Jarl fails there. Lastly, we don’t learn what becomes of the Mules who continued on into space without their servants, but given that two of three solutions failed we aren’t confident. Through these examples, we are left to wonder how smart the Mules are and why any generation would willingly surrender power to the few.

Darkship Renegades reveals more of the ideology behind Earth and Eden with healthy doses of action. The excitement hooks while the overarching questions leave you wondering: how would I have addressed these challenges? It’s another fun jaunt!

Cherry Pecan Cinnamon Scones

Cherry Pecan Cinnamon Scones

Buckwheat’s benefits combined with protein based almond meal provides a no-filler, all goodness, and gluten free scone. These nutritious scones are perfect for breakfast, a quick snack, or proper tea times. I’ve opted for pecans and dried cherries, but other nuts and dried fruit are easily substituted.   

Ingredients

  • 1 C almond meal
  • 1/2 C buckwheat flour
  • 2 T coconut flour
  • 1 T coconut palm sugar
  • 1 T xylitol
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C butter softened, not melted
  • 1 T (heaping) honey
  • 1/2 C pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 C dried unsweetened cherries
  • coconut palm sugar to sprinkle on the top (optional)

 

Process

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Lightly oil scone pan (I use coconut oil) or use parchment paper/silicon mat if opting for drop scones.
  • Mix, using a whisk, the dry ingredients. Do not include the last three dry ingredients: pecans, dried cherries, and additional sugar.
  • In a separate bowl mix the wet ingredients.
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients.  Mix until well blended.
  • Add the pecans and cherries to batter.
  • Scope into scone pan or drop onto baking sheet.
  • Lightly dust sugar on top of the scones (optional)
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.
  • Enjoy!

 

  • Note = the scones are darker colored due to the almond meal, not flour, and buckwheat.

 

Credit

The above recipe is a modified version from Glutenfreefix.com which has lots of great gluten free recipes. It’s available online here.

Garden Veggies

Garden Veggies

Here’s a delicious and simple veggie recipe. It’s quick to make and does well served at home or brought to a friend’s to share. People always gobble this one up, so don’t plan on leftovers *grin.*

 

Ingredients

  • 4 small zucchinis
  • 2 large yellow squash
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 large red onion
  • 6-8 garlic cloves (feel free to omit or lower)
  • 2 T butter (omit if prefer dairy free, just add more oil)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • salt to taste

 

Process

  • Wash and dry the zucchini, yellow squash and parsley.
  • Dice the garlic.
  • Slice the onion into 1/8 inch thick rounds and then cut in half, which will yield long stringed sections, once they separate during cooking.
  • Heat the butter, oil, and garlic in a large skillet on medium heat. As the garlic starts to smell add the red onion and sauté for 3-5 minutes until they’ve softened a bit.
  • While they sauté, prep the remaining veggies.
  • Slice the zucchini into 1/8 inch thick rounds.
  • Slice the yellow squash into 1/8 thick rounds and then cut in half, making half moon shaped pieces.
  • Add the squash and zucchini rounds and half rounds atop the garlic and onion. Sprinkle salt, to taste, between layers as you add the vegetables to the pan.
  • Sauté for approximately 12-15 minutes. Stir frequently to blend flavors and to cook evenly.
  • As it cooks, chop the parsley.
  • When cooked to your level of preferred doneness (I like to see some browning) remove from heat, place in a serving bowl, and then garnish with fresh parsley.