Saturday, October 23, 2021

Tagine of pork, summer squash, sweet peppers, and mint

 There are a number of tagine recipes I haven't made because lamb is quite expensive, so I'll get 'round tuit when I get lamb. Except, at the gym, a friend from the Med was informing me that he was about to make so many ancestral souls scream, and substitute pork for lamb in a Lebanese casserole. 

And I cocked my head to the side, and said, "You can do that? It works?"

"Oh, yes. The flavour is a little different, but it works just fine."

Well, then! I cubed up my pork loin, and promptly made a very nice dish.

3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 Tbsp minced garlic (or to taste)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds (I used powder, not whole seed.)
1 Tbsp fresh mint, rough-chopped 
1-2 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated or chopped
2.5 lbs pork loin, cubed into bite-sized pieces

1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2-3 summer squash, cut into bite-sized pieces
1-2 zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
3-4 mini sweet peppers, diced (or 1-2 yellow/red bell pepper)
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
small bunch of parsley, rough-chopped
small bunch of mint, rough-chopped (in addition to the Tablespoon of mint used above)
1-2 lemons, cut into wedges

Heat the olive oil in the tagine (or enameled cast iron dutch oven). Toss in the onion, cumin, coriander, ginger, garlic, and mint. Once the onions begin to soften, add in the meat, and pour in just enough water to cover. Scrape the browned bits off the bottom, let come to a boil, then cover and simmer for 90 minutes.

Then add salt, pepper, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, and if necessary, more water. Replace lid, cook for 15 more minutes, until the veg is cooked but retains a little bite. 

Turn off stove, uncover, toss in parsley & rest of mint, stir, serve with lemon wedges on the side to sprinkle over the dish just before eating. 

Served without couscous, it even counts for keto! Too much water? No worries, serve it as a soup!

This was good enough I am now plotting to bring in my mint plant this winter, despite the feline frustrations to indoor plants. That way, we can have it again and again. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Is it the same planet?

Yes, yes it is. 

Scaling the Rim is set roughly 70 years After (initial) Landing. Going Ballistic is set in 751 A.L., Blood, Oil, & Love in 752 A.L, and A Perfect Day in 753 A.L. (Or is it 754? Must go back and check. Pretty sure it’s the next summer, not two years later.)

…I haven’t worked out quite when Shattered Under Midnight takes places, because it’s so far off-planet that it doesn’t really matter to Akrep. Will probably take more stories to put the puzzle pieces together. And more stories to fill in the historical gap. (The problem with the direct sequel to Scaling was that I didn’t have the technical chops to write the story I wanted, when I tried to tackle it. It’s in the projects folder, waiting patiently with other partial stories, including the sequel to Shattered.)

As for those of you who asked about the slur "Dogs", some insults hang around a lot longer than the original meaning or application. In fact, it was originally applied to the security team on the arkship by the scientists, lifting from an old insult for polizei. They ran with it, just like other group have owned their insults as monikers (This group happened to have free and easy access to genetic manipulation, onboard ship. So their descendants who didn't, had cold tolerance... and claws.) By the time Lizzes walks into the ballroom, it’s a Fed insult for Imperial security forces and police, which… is almost full circle. (Linguistic shifts and etymology are like ecological history: utterly fascinating when you dig into them!)

And "shards"? Well, we'll cover exactly what happened to the arkships, and why the survivors ended up at the bottom of a crater huddled around geothermal warmth, later. That's a different book. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

A Perfect Day is Out!


I know the trend out there is for "kick-ass heroines" who look like waifs and fight like 250-pound male MMA champions. You may have noticed I don't believe in that, any more than I believe in a cashless economy or successful central planning. But this one isn't about women kicking ass. (There is plenty of door-kicking in there. By gents trained to do it.) This is about the quiet strength to hold on when your world blows up around you, and roll with everything thrown at you without losing who you are, and what you value. Sometimes, courage is holding on one minute longer. Sometimes, it's choosing to trust, even when the person you thought you knew is stranger than you could imagine.

It's also about the not-trendy truth that the truly hard men who keep us safe don't usually look like cover models or movie stars, and you're not going to know where your vet has been and what he's done within the first few dates. Or even necessarily the first few years of marriage. Or ever. But just because he's having a hard time transitioning, don't mistake that for general incompetence: he's amazingly competent at things you may never know about unless the world has gone to hell.

And last, but not least, it's about what we do with a second chances. 

There are also explosions, and a mocktail recipe I gleefully yoinked from a vet and his active-duty wife who have all the best random pieces of advice (I had to write it down somewhere I could look it up later. Why not in the book?) And a demonstration of why, sometimes, a sap is a better weapon than a gun in close quarters combat. And a toddler on a gleeful rampage. 

I hope you like it. (Print book should be live later today; it's still in the queue.)

Alma Got Me Back

I was standing on a corner, minding my own business, when some dude...

No, I wasn't. But it's a good story opener, told thousands of times to cops, paramedics, and ER staff, along with the variant of "when two dudes..." and "Some b-tch." to cover misdemeanors, felonies, and general stupidities. It's probably been used at this point more than "It was a dark and stormy night..."

So, really there I was, sitting at my computer with a karmic debt owed because I had infected Alma Boykin with a story. She puts up a post about Roads, Home, and Wanderers. Complete with the music that inspired several scenes. I listened, and went "Ah! I actually prefer a different arrangement, because I can hear the words more clearly."

So I dug it up to listen to it again, while maundering off in the comments section about the difficulties of going home again. 

And something started niggling at my mind, but I had a road trip I was on that I was paying more attention to. 

And then Old NFO and I got to talking about the sacrifices the military makes on the home front, and how home changes on you when you're away. 

And two days later, I got ambushed by a story. In which a career spacer finally returns to the farm, and finds that the past is another country that we cannot see again, even when we tread the same ground.  

I thought it'd be a short story, but it's looking more and more like a novella. We'll see. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Coming Soon: A Perfect Day!


Jenna Brooks is a welder, and a fashionista whenever she can afford it. AJ is a former Special Forces spacer, who finds himself completely outside his comfort zone with her. However, terrorist bombs can overcome almost any divide - the hard way.

When Jenna stumbles over a corpse wearing an important clue, she's roped into a high-stakes counterterrorism operation to uncover a counterfeit fashion ring that's funding the terrorists.

As the trail of blood money and knock-off shoes starts leading closer to home, Jenna's going to need all the help she can get to stay alive. AJ's just the man to do that - but he's after a lot more than merely her safety. It may cost her everything she's worked for... and also her heart.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

You liked it? You really liked it!

I know there are authors out there who begin with their audience in mind. They counsel the rest of us to make sure that we have characters drawn up who will represent the audience demographics, in order to be more accessible. They talk about making sure the reading level of the book isn't so high it'll turn away readers (and list off bestsellers who are all below 7th grade reading level.) They talk about writing to market with exactly the format and pacing that the genre readers love.

..I'm afraid I start with what-if? And ecosystems,. And sometimes with a character. Or a concept that won't let go. Sometimes a concept and a character who shows up and stubbornly insists this is their book. (Twitch. And AJ. AJ was not supposed to be in that book. AJ didn't care; he and Twitch showed up, anyway. Who's in control here?) 

As for reading level... um, yes, yes I did say Gunny and Twitch were going to get her down the aisle, if it took a hecatomb of her enemies to make it happen. Hey, Kipling wrote about the grave of the hundred-head, so I'm not the only one who finds hecatombs just and fitting...

As for the pacing and the insertion of reader cookies, I'm not that good. I just write the story as the story demands, keeping true to itself as it works out the implications of the initial incident, and what the characters wants and need. And then I think about putting it out in the wide world, and that's when I start to worry that it's not really mainstream, and in a world of authors talking about shaving and shaping their round peg to fit perfectly in the round hole, I have a 20-sided dice that can rattle and roll into that slot, and I just hope when it does, it's not showing a natural 1. 

So to look and see it's less than a month since blood, Oil & Love came out, and I have over 50 ratings or reviews? And most of you like it? You really like it? 

I am awed and humbled. Thank you. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

On the naming of things

We had an old floor vacuum, a knock-off version I named Not-A-Roomba. Calmer Half noted that it was getting older and more worn out, and the operational noise level and rattling was getting bad enough it was driving me spare. So, he unilaterally declared we were using the proceeds of my latest book release and getting a replacement. (He does this: he checks the budget, evaluates the options, and then takes command and declares we're getting/fixing/replacing things where I've been pinching pennies and waiting until the old one was completely broken down/ worn out/ used to the last dregs. He's almost always right, too.)

Thanks to a sale at Big Box Store, we have an actual roomba now. Though I looked at it and went "Model e5? It's a sergeant?" Calmer Half gave me the sort of grin that tells you he just might have picked that one just to see if he'd get that reaction. 

"The last one was definitely a miscreant E-4!"

Well, this one is much quieter, much faster, and it works. Everyone (except the cats) is happy. 

However, when it came time to refer to it while chatting with friends, I started typing Actually-A-Roomba. That lasted about two mentions, and then I gave in. "Dear, mind if we name this one Roomba-Actual?"

"I was going to name it Roomba-Six, but that's fine, Love."

Normal in this household might only exist as a setting on the washing machine, but it works for us.