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Monday, August 29, 2016

WIP Teaser

WIP - work in progress.

I've been doing a lot of crocheting lately. Lots of WIPs turning into FOs (finished objects). A few are UFOs (ugly finished objects). It's fun and fulfilling.

Writing is more fulfilling. So I thought I'd tease you with the first chapter of Blue Mage: Shadow Nothings.

DISCLAIMER: This is a rough draft. It has not been edited. At all. Not yet. It's also a story aimed at 9-12yo kids. I hope you enjoy it anyway. I'm aiming for December publication date on this one.

Chapter 1: The Dream

"Momma, I had my dream." Jeena stood in the doorway to the kitchen. Morning sunlight streamed through the wide window, splashing stripes of gold across the round kitchen table.
Her momma pushed a final piece of wood into the fire beneath the cooking stove. The door slammed shut with a metallic clang. "Are you sure?"
Jeena nodded. "It was different from every other dream I've ever had. I saw dragons and the ocean, water as far as I could see. I was flying, too. And everything I touched burned with blue fire. When I woke up, this was on my pillow." She opened her hand to show her momma a clear stone. It was a smooth circle with a hole in the center.
Her momma crossed the kitchen, skirt swaying with each slow step. "Your journeystone. Keep it safe."
Jeena nodded. "I know the stories. That's how I knew I flew over the ocean in my dream. I read about it in Granny Miller's book."
"Are you sure it was your dream, Jeena? You're only eleven. Most don't dream until they're fourteen." Her momma caught her in a tight hug.
Jeena hugged her momma back. She breathed in her momma's scent of lavender and honey. She wanted to remember it always. "I dreamed I had to leave today. I have to go to Mage Mountain. I'm going to be a blue mage."
Her momma squeezed extra tight, then let go. She brushed her eyes as she turned back to the stove. "Then I'd best get you breakfast. Run to the stables and fetch Trey. He can take you on your journey. I'll talk with Birt about taking the ponies. After you have a chance to eat and pack. Go, Jeena. Invite them both to breakfast."
Jeena bit her lip. Her momma looked sad. She hugged her momma again. "I'll miss you."
Her momma smoothed Jeena's hair. "I'll miss you, too, Sunshine. Now run. You should leave this morning. It's bad luck to put off your journey."
Jeena smiled as she hurried through the village. She waved at the blacksmith. His assistant held Blackie's head while the horse was fitted for new shoes. She would have stopped to talk, but this was a special day. You only got your dream once and if you didn't answer the call to the journey, you suffered. Jeena sniffed appreciatively at the baker's shop. Sweet buns filled the air with their enticing aroma. Maybe she could get one to take with her. It was good luck to gift a young person setting out on her journey. She'd remind the baker of that later.
She ran over the bridge, her footsteps echoing off the slow-moving water beneath. Dust puffed from the trail as she ran up the hill to the stables. She paused by the door to look back over her village. She loved the way it glowed green like a jewel in the summer morning. Smoke rose from the chimneys, thin spirals from the cooking fires. The air smelled of grass and fresh bread and horses. It smelled of home. She squeezed her jouneystone tight in her fist. Some people had dreams that kept them in their village. Her momma told stories of walking three days to the village, her journeystone glowing only when she headed east, until she reached the weaver's cottage at the edge of Dimpledon. Jeena's two older brothers had left last spring, both clutching their journeystones. One headed north to the next village where he apprenticed with the blacksmith. The other left with their father to join the king's armies. Jeena and her momma were home alone for the summer. Jeena never expected her dream so soon. Her brothers were so much older and bigger when they had theirs.
Her cousin, Trey, hadn't dreamed yet and he was almost eighteen. He worked for Birt who owned the stables at the edge of town. She secretly hoped Trey would never have his dream. She couldn't stand the thought of him leaving her behind. But now, she had her dream and it would take her away first.
She squeezed the stone again as she slid her hand into her pocket.
She walked through the wide door into the stable. She breathed deep, loving the smell of horses and hay. "Trey?"
"Hey, Strawberry. You're up early." Trey forked hay down from the loft in a shower of green. The horses below shifted closer, reaching for their breakfast.
Jeena gave him a mock glare. "Don't call me that."
Trey leaned on his pitchfork, grinning. "You want me to call you flea instead? Because you're only as big as one."
"Only to you, Scarecrow."
"Strawberry blondie. No one will ever marry you, you know. It's that hair. Red and gold like a fox. It means you're dangerous." He hung the pitchfork on the wall before climbing down the ladder.
"At least my hair won't get mistaken for straw." She loved teasing her older cousin, but this morning her heart wasn't in it. "Momma wants you to come for breakfast."
He frowned. "It's not a holiday. Is something wrong?"
"Not really." She pulled her journeystone from her pocket. "I had my dream."
He sucked in a breath and pulled a journeystone from his pocket. "So did I. Last night. I was starting to think I'd never have a dream. I dreamed I had a sword in one hand and a flower in the other. The flower glowed blue. I had to protect it."
The stones flared with light.
"I think that means you're supposed to go with me," Jeena said. "To Mage Mountain. Momma says we should leave after breakfast."
"Mage Mountain? What did you dream?"
"I'm going to be a blue mage. Trey, I'm scared."
He whistled, long and low. "A blue mage? There hasn't been a blue mage in a hundred years." He slid his stone into his pocket, then ruffled her hair. "Don't be scared, Strawberry. I'm here to protect you. What's your momma cooking this morning? I hope she's making berry cakes. She makes the best berry cakes in the village."
"Trey? I don't want to leave. I'm only eleven."
"I'm not sure I want to leave, either, but Mage Mountain isn't that far away. I'm sure you can visit whenever you want. I told Birt about my dream. He said I could take any horses I needed with me on my journey. And since you're coming with me, we'll take Meadow and Blackie."
"Is that why Blackie's getting new shoes?"
He grinned. "Trust you to notice the horses." He patted Smoke's nose. The big gray snorted before snatching another mouthful of hay.
"Did you ever hear of two people dreaming about the same journey before?" Jeena asked as they walked down the hill back to the village.
Trey shook his head. "Only in the really old story books. I never heard of someone dreaming about being a blue mage before, either."
Jeena fingered the stone in her pocket. "Where do the stones come from?"
He shrugged. "Some say the fairies bring them, but since no one's seen a fairy for years, who knows?"
"Why hasn't anyone seen a fairy for years? Momma said her grandmother used to talk to fairies all the time."
"Who knows? We can ask the mages when we get to Mage Mountain. We're never going to get there at this rate, though. Race you to your house?"
Jeena grinned as she took off running, bare feet flashing from under her skirt. Talking to Trey made her feel better, excited and still a little nervous about her journey, but not scared. Well, not as much. She put on a burst of speed down the hill to the village.

"No fair, you cheater!" Trey chased her, blond hair flying as he ran.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thursday Recipe - Pineapple Hot Sauce

I love the pineapple habanero sauce from Costco. I decided to create my own version of it to bottle just to see if I could. Here's what I came up with.

Pineapple Hot Sauce

1 pineapple
1 medium yellow onion
1 red bell pepper
6-8 jalapeƱos or other hot peppers
1 c. sugar
1 c. vinegar
2 T lemon juice
1 T pickling salt (or kosher or un-iodized)
1 T powdered pectin (optional - this helps it thicken up)

Peel and core the pineapple. Chop it into small bits and dump into a large saucepan (4-qt or 6-qt). Peel the onion, then dice into small bits. Add it to the pot.

Use gloves to handle the hot peppers! The oils that make them spicy can and will burn your skin. And if you touch your eyes or lips or nose, it will burn for hours. That is the voice of experience speaking.

Remove stems from the peppers. If you want it less hot, remove the seeds. Chop into small bits. You should end up with about 1/2-3/4 c. of chopped peppers. Add that to the pot.

Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or so until it thickens up. Pack into pint bottles and process according to your altitude. Treat it like a cross between jam and pickles.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Audio Book Excitement!

I've been working on a couple of audiobooks. They are almost done. Nexus Point is in final edits. Autumn Visions, a collection of short stories that were languishing on Amazon's Kindle listings, is getting a makeover as an audio book. I love the stories and I found a great narrator for them. We ran into a few technical glitches, though, but it should be out before Christmas.

Anyone out there want to review either of them? I will get Audible codes with each one and I could use more reviews. If you are interested, send me an email at jaletaclegg at gmail dot com with "Audio Reviewer" in the subject line. Then tell me which book (or both!) you want to review. I'll be in touch when they are released.

And if you don't want to wait for the audio to read Autumn Visions, get it here:

Autumn Visions

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thursday Recipe - Lemon Pepper Seasoning

It's time for another spice mix!

This one was inspired by a big bowl of lemons sitting on my counter. I juice them and use some of the peel fresh, but I came across a blog post about drying lemon peels to use in seasonings. It looked easy enough so I tried it. And yes, it takes some work, but since I was going to throw out the peels anyway, I'd call it a success.

The easy way I found is to use a vegetable peeler. Wash the lemons first to remove any dirt or residue on the peels. Then peel thin strips of just the yellow peel from the lemon. If you get some of the white, don't worry. That's the next step. Use a knife, a serrated steak knife works pretty well, and gently scrape off most of the white. Lay your peel strips on a baking sheet. Put it in a sunny spot and let them dry. I ended up leaving mine out on the counter for a week just to make sure they were fully dried.

These keep for a long time in your spice cupboard. Chop them really fine or grind them when you need a hit of lemon in a recipe. Just keep in mind that 1 T. of fresh lemon peel is only about 1/2 t. of dried. It gets concentrated.

Lemon Pepper Seasoning

3 T. salt
1 T. dried lemon peel
1 T. black peppercorns
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. sugar
1 t. dried parsley (optional)

Grind everything together. I use a coffee grinder. It works great. You can buy one at most stores that carry small kitchen appliances for less than $20. It's a very useful tool if you do a lot of spice mixes.

Otherwise, use ground black pepper and chop the lemon peel very fine.

Mix it together and store in an airtight container. Shake it up before using it just to make sure everything is well mixed.

To use: Sprinkle it over fish or chicken before you cook it;
OR toss 1 T. seasoning with 2 T. oil, 4 c. pasta, 1 c. chopped bell peppers, and 1/2 c. chopped sweet onion. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve hot.

Monday, August 15, 2016

On Creativity

On Dasher. On Blitzen! Did Santa have a reindeer named Creativity? Didn't think so, but it would be awesome if he did.

I'm still struggling to get the creative juices flowing. Real life keeps interrupting. Things like doctor visits, school registration, shopping, cooking, cleaning, family wanting to talk to me, dogs that need to go out, phone calls, and on and on and on. Finding time to write has been hard. I need a few hours uninterrupted to really get stuff going, but those hours can't happen when I'm tired or having a migraine day. Too hard to think. So I'm trying to schedule writing time in the mornings between nine and noon. I need to quit scheduling appointments then. And re-train my kids to leave me alone for those hours of the day.

Then I need to find my discipline. It's too easy to let Facebook or email or this blog distract me. I can spend hours doing story "research" surfing clickbait stories and watching bizarre videos on YouTube. It's all story fodder, yes, but unless I write stories, it's just wasted time.

So here's my goal: I will finish the rough draft for Blue Mage: Shadow Nothings by Halloween. I'm about 10% done with the story, so it's a reachable goal. I'm also aiming at getting one short story written, polished, and either published or submitted somewhere every month. For publishing, I'm working on another short story collection. I'm planning on publishing that one in December. Then it's on to an Altairan Empire short story collection, with new stories written. I've also got Taco Truck Elves to write. And dozens of other stories and novels. But the point of goal setting is to set achievable, measurable goals, so I'll stick with Blue Mage: Shadow Nothings and the one short story a month. I promised Blue Mage to my daughter for Christmas four years ago, it's about time I delivered.

So speaking of short stories every month, this month I published Interagency Cooperation, a short story related to the Taco Truck Elves. It introduces the F.B.I.- Fairyland Border Investigations. Illegal border crossings happen all the time and it is up to the FBI agents to mitigate the damage on the unsuspecting human population.

Get the story free with code UN83G!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Thursday Recipe - Zucchini Brownie Bundt Cake

This is another attempt to use up zucchini. It's based off this recipe, changed up to be my kind of recipe. It turned out very moist and fudgey and just all around delicious. Definitely one to make again sometime.

Zucchini Brownie Bundt Cake

1 c. semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1/4 c. oil
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. cocoa
2 1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 c. flour (use half whole-wheat and half white if you want it healthier)
3 c. shredded zucchini
1/2 c. chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Stir melted chocolate chips, oil, and sugars together until mixed. Add eggs, vanilla, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Beat until well blended. Stir in flour and zucchini. Stir just until mixed and all flour is moistened. It may look dry when you first add the flour and zucchini, but don't add more liquid! Zucchini has a lot of water in it that will come out and moisten the batter.

Grease and flour a bundt cake pan. Pour half the batter into the pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 c. chocolate chips and nuts, if desired. Spread the other half of the batter in the pan.

Bake at 325° for 50-65 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. The cake should develop a couple of cracks on top, just like the good loaves of zucchini bread. Let it cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes. Turn it over onto a plate. Shake it gently to release the cake. Let it cool the rest of the way, then cover tightly and refrigerate. This cake is better the next day. Store any leftovers in the fridge.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Musings on a Sand Dollar, a short tale

"Caity, what you got?" Jimmy's hands reached for the sand dollar.

I lifted it out of his reach. I was twelve that summer at the beach, very grown up and ready to be an adult. "Mine."

His chin trembled. Little crybaby. "I'll tell mom."

I sniffed and turned my back. Waves washed around my feet, cold and smelling of salt. "Go find your own. They're everywhere." I held the sand dollar on my flat palm, admiring the perfect markings on the white round shell. Five leafy shapes imprinted on one side, wriggly lines surrounding a puckered hole on the other. Smooth and flat, a squashed circle that mounded softly in the center, it fit perfectly in my palm. I brushed sand from the surface.

The puckered hole spat out a small cloud of bluish purple smoke. A tiny man, wearing nothing but a shower cap, with purple fog for his legs, appeared on my hand.

"Never fails. I wait and wait before taking a bath but as soon as I get in and get all relaxed, POOF!, someone rubs my shell." He glared at me with tiny eyes the color of amethysts. "Whaddya want?"

"You're a genie." My voice trembled with excitement. Nothing this wonderful had ever happened in all my twelve years of existence.

"And you're not a genius. C'mon, get on with it. Make the wish already."

"For my first wish," I drawled, stretching the words while I frantically tried to think of something that wouldn't sound stupid or selfish.

He held up one tiny hand. "Wait one second, hold the phone, sweetie. First wish? First wish? You only got one so use it wisely. And fast. I'm on a deadline here."

"I only get one wish? They always get three in the stories."

"Stupid lamp genies. Always gotta show us little guys up. Three wishes? You got one, so talk fast before you got none."

"There's a time limit to wishes? What if I don't want to use it yet."

"Too bad. You got about thirty seconds left to make your wish."

My mind raced. What could I wish for in thirty seconds? World peace? Too vague. A never-ending money bag? No, that only caused problems in the stories. I could wish to be beautiful, smart, funny. Or to fall in love. But those were selfish wishes.

"Counting down here. Make the wish or lose your chance. For-eh-veh." He waggled his eyebrows.

My mind went blank. One wish and I couldn't think of anything.

"Caity!" Jimmy's voice drifted over the sound of seagulls and waves.

"What now?" I didn't want the most important decision of my life interrupted by my baby brother.

"Lookit what I found. It's all squooshy."

I hunched my shoulders, turning my back more firmly on Jimmy. Mom should be watching him, not laying on the sand with her book. I had more important things to do, like figure out how to save the world and make myself happy and rich all with only one wish.

"Tick tock," the genie tapped his wrist. "Spit it out or miss out."

"I wish you'd give me more time," I snapped.

He nodded. "Done."

The genie melted into a cloud of purple-blue smoke. It sucked itself into the hole in the sand dollar.

"Wait! That wasn't my wish!"

He was gone. The sand dollar was only a shell in my hand. I rubbed it frantically. No smoke appeared. I rubbed harder and harder, until it snapped in half. The inside held only a dribble of white sand.

I dropped to my knees on the beach. Waves washed around my legs. Goosebumps crawled over my skin at the touch of cold sea water. I had just wasted the most precious opportunity of my life.

"Caity, come see this!" Jimmy's excited voice beckoned me.

I dropped the broken sand dollar. The waves swallowed the white shards, rolling them through white foam and shreds of seaweed. I'd wasted my wish on more time. But I was only twelve, I had no idea what the genie had given me for my wish. I jumped up, out of the wet sand and teasing waves.

"I think it's a mermaid," Jimmy shouted.

I hurried across the beach to my baby brother. After all, I'd found a genie in a sand dollar. Why shouldn't he find a mermaid in a tide pool? Maybe later we'd hunt unicorns in the dune grass. I had time to spare now.

If you enjoyed this short tale, check out my other work at or download ebooks and free stories at my profile on Smashwords.