Basket of Book Reviews

I’ve been mirroring my blogs here on WordPress and on Blogger. I’ve found Blogger is easier for me to use, so to find the book reviews, go here: http://jaletaclegg.blogspot.com/2011/06/basket-of-book-reviews.html

June 7, 2011 at 6:20 pm Leave a comment

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.

June 2, 2011 at 7:37 pm Leave a comment

Lessons Learned at ConDuit

ConDuit is an annual science-fiction/fantasy/horror convention in Salt Lake City. It’s not a huge con. But the quality of guests and attendees is incredible. And the friendliness is unbelievable. Maybe it’s because I’m local and I know most of these people. Maybe it’s just Utah grows positive attitudes in its SF/F/Horror community. Either way, I had a fabulous weekend.

We took our horde with us this year. I was a bit nervous. My kids have never been to a con. I wasn’t sure how they’d react. They had a blast. Even the 8yo and 10yo were happy and busy all weekend. The hotel bill was a bit steep, but 8 people in a nice hotel for a weekend eating in the restaurant isn’t cheap no matter how you slice it. Every one of my kids wants to go back. Kudos to the committee and gaming people for keeping ConDuit very family friendly and inclusive. And a huge thank you to my hubby who ran the track for the kids. He had some great panels and demonstrations lined up. The kids at the con loved it.

I loved seeing all my friends from past years and meeting new ones. ConDuit has great regulars who come and hang out. The authors who come are very accessible and willing to share advice and stories with us newbies who haven’t been authors for that long. The artists who come are just as much fun to talk with. I’m not sure about the gaming gurus because I don’t hang out in that end of the con much. Not enough time to do it all or I would. I’d start naming names but I’m afraid if I miss someone they might think I don’t like them anymore. Which isn’t true. I love seeing these people. I miss the ones who didn’t make it this year.

This year, I got to see a Nebula award up close and personal. It’s awesome. I want one for my award shelf. Congratulations to Eric James Stone for winning it. They couldn’t have awarded it to a nicer person. If you haven’t read his stories, you really should. He oozes talent. And most of them are funny.

If you’ve never been to a convention and you like science fiction, fantasy, superheroes, horror, or just like having a good time, check out ConDuit. Come join us next Memorial Day weekend. The costumes are fun, the conversations intriguing, and the people very friendly. It’s a great place to discover new authors and stories to read, new artists to decorate your walls, and make new friends.

Sorry, no pictures. I keep forgetting I own a camera. But if you search for ConDuit Convention, I’m sure lots of other people have posted pics.

May 30, 2011 at 7:18 pm Leave a comment

Genre Differences

I promised this essay two weeks ago. That was before the flu and a whole lot of hairy deadlines. I’ve put a lot of thought into this topic. After Nexus Point came out in 2009, I struggled with defining what genre it fit in. Science fiction, yes, obviously. Maybe not. The only spaceship happens in chapter one, where it blows up, and the last couple of chapters. The whole middle of the book takes place on a low-tech world. So what sub-genre did it fit in?

There’s also romance in the book. Does that make it Romance? Science Fiction Romance? I’ve spent time hanging out with Science Fiction Romance authors trying to decide if I fit in their genre.

Romance, of any subgenre, is a very different kind of writing. It’s hard to describe because the differences are subtle. It has to do with where the emphasis is in the story, how characters are introduced and described, word choice, and sentence structure. Read enough romance novels and you can understand what I mean. Compare them with straight science fiction, murder mystery (not romance mystery), or fantasy. The fundamental structure is different. Romance puts the relationship, whether physical or emotional, at the forefront. Nothing else takes precedence over the romance.

Nexus Point is not Romance. Romantic, yes, a little, but not Romance. The story structure is wrong for a romance. Romance readers tell me it feels off. They like it, yes, the story is good, the characters are great, but the story itself is just not right. They’re expecting the book to be structured and built like a Romance. Those who like science fiction tell me my story is fluff. It’s not hard science fiction, it’s not about the Great Idea or Science. They like it, but it’s not “serious”. It’s too much romance, not enough science fiction.

If you look at readers of Romance, they are overwhelmingly women of all ages. Readers of science fiction, especially the hard stuff, tend to be men who don’t like romance in their books. Look at the classic SF – characters are mainly men. Women are mostly decoration or set dressing. The audiences for these two genres are very different.

Is it possible to mix Romance and Science Fiction? Sure. Lots of authors do it. But who is your audience? Not hard core Romance readers, unless you write Romance with a few rockets and aliens and even then, most Romance readers won’t pick up an SF book. Not hard core SF fans. No matter how good your rocket ships and aliens are, the heart of the story is a romance.

After much soul searching, deconstruction of genre, and lurking on websites, I’ve come to the conclusion that I write Space Opera. It’s like summer beach reads for science fiction readers. Lots of action, lots of adventure, a touch of romance. Yeah, it’s fluff, but entertaining fluff. So whatever genre you read, step out of your comfort zone this summer and try some space opera.

Nexus Point can be purchased from lots of online sites in many formats, including print. Check http://www.nexuspoint.info for a full list.

May 23, 2011 at 7:36 pm Leave a comment

Thursday Recipe – Wizard Corn

Another recipe from my Hogwarts mini-course. This is my favorite candy popcorn recipe. Have fun playing with flavorings and colors. Theme it for whatever holiday you want to celebrate. For Christmas, I like to make three big batches, yellow with rum, red with peppermint, and green with almond. After they set up, break the popcorn apart and mix all three in a bag to make a festive present.

Wizard Corn

8 quarts air-popped unseasoned popcorn

1 c. butter

1/2 c. corn syrup

2 c. sugar

1/8 t. salt

1 t. extract or flavoring or 1/4 t. oil flavoring

food coloring as desired

Melt the butter in a 2 or 3 quart saucepan. Stir in corn syrup, sugar, and salt. Cook to just past soft ball stage. (A little bit dripped into a bowl of ice cold water should form a soft ball that’s just a bit chewy. It’s just over 220° F.) Remove from heat. Stir in flavorings and colorings. Pour over popcorn. Stir gently until evenly coated. Spread out onto waxed paper to cool. Break into chunks and store in a loosely covered container.

Some of my favorite flavors are rum, peppermint, almond, anise, coconut, cinnamon (oil only), and vanilla. Fruit flavors will also work. The oil flavorings can be a lot stronger than the regular extracts, so if in doubt, add less. You can always use more next time if the flavor isn’t strong enough.

For a fun eggnog flavor, add 1/2 t. rum extract, 1 t. vanilla, and 1/2 t. ground nutmeg to the syrup just before pouring over the popcorn.

For a fun experiment, instead of extract and colorings, add a packet of unsweetened Koolaid drink mix to the syrup. Flavor and color all in one.

You can also stir in fun things like marshmallows, red hot candies, gumdrops, M&M’s, nuts, coconut, or whatever else catches your fancy. Just add them to the popcorn before you add the syrup. Be careful with chocolate candies. They may melt from the heat. You can always press them on top of the popcorn before it’s cool.

May 19, 2011 at 8:17 pm Leave a comment

Thursday Recipe – Chocolate Frogs

Today’s recipe comes from a miserable failure of an activity. I thought since my kids were going to be home for two weeks over Christmas, I would set up a mini-Hogwarts school. They were big into Harry Potter at the time. I had all these great ideas for activities and cool things to do. The only parts that worked were making fancy wands out of pencils and cooking up the fun recipes I found.

These cookies are the big, soft chocolate cookies with powdered sugar. I usually call them Plate Tectonics Cookies, because they look like the big plates shifting around on the earth. It’s a sneaky way to reinforce science concepts. Cookies lend themselves so well to teaching geology concepts. I should market an entire basic geology course mixed with a cookie baking course.

Chocolate Frogs were a hit with my kids. They still are.

Chocolate Frogs

2 c. sugar
2/3 c. oil
3/4 c. cocoa
4 eggs
2 t. vanilla
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 c. flour
3/4 c. powdered sugar

Mix sugar, oil, and cocoa. Beat in eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. Stir in flour just until cookies are mixed. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350°. Scoop dough into balls. Roll in powdered sugar and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until set. Cool before eating.

May 13, 2011 at 9:02 pm Leave a comment

The dog ate my essay. Cross my heart.

I had a great post all planned on the differences between Romance and Other Genres. It’s still waiting for me to write it. The weekend turned into a lot more work than I planned.

Two weeks ago, my 18yo daughter brought home a giant hairball of a dog. Wookie is a chow-lab mix, as close as we can figure. He has a calm, sweet personality with a big stubborn streak. He also doesn’t smell much like a dog. He’s the perfect pet for my daughter. I’m not a dog person. I’ve never been one. Wookie convinced me that there are dogs I can live with. So, when she moved to another city last Saturday, I was prepared to get our family a dog.

Friday, we took our two youngest to the animal shelter to look at dogs. My 10yo son threw a massive fit. He did NOT want a dog in our house. He hates dogs. He tolerates them when we’re housesitting, but he did not want one to move in permanently. He got overruled. We found the sweetest little black lab. Sasha is very quiet, polite, and gentle. She’s the perfect dog for us.

The 10yo got so upset, he stole all the pillows off my bed and hid them. He threw a tantrum of massive proportions, at least for him. After a long discussion, we agreed that he could have the cat he fell in love with at the shelter if he would tolerate the dog. We now have a massive cat named Chunkalicious Rex. The picture does not do justice to the size of this beast. He’s a big pansy, though, very friendly and sweet.

Saturday afternoon I spent mediating between the kids, the dog, Chunkalicious, and our geriatric toothless cat who’s been in our house for over 15 years. It was quite the day. So nothing I planned for the weekend actually happened. I’m sure you wanted to know all that. Next week, I’ll write that article about writing romance versus writing science fiction. Promise. Unless something else explodes in my life.

May 10, 2011 at 2:03 am Leave a comment

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Jaleta Clegg

I write science fiction, fantasy, and comic horror. I also have a whole horde of children and a lot of opinions.

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