Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Story -- The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Today's WMG Holiday Spectacular story is one of mine, and it's called "The Way the Cookie Crumbles." It's a contemporary fantasy set during prep for a Christmas party.

Click through the link above for info on the Holiday Spectacular -- it's a great collection of holiday stories sent to your in-box from Thanksgiving through New Year. It's been going on for a few weeks, but you can subscribe any time, and they'll send you all the stories that've gone out so far, so you don't miss anything.

"The Way the Cookie Crumbles" was available for free here on my blog until the 29th. Below is a recipe for one of the cookies mentioned in the story. It's currently my favorite cookie to make -- give it a shot!

If you've made regular chocolate chip cookies before, these are an easy variation. If you're new to cookie making, these are a good place to get your feet wet.

Chocolate Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 42 cookies, give or take a couple.

3/4 cup white sugar and 3/4 cup brown sugar OR 1 1/2 cups white sugar and 1/4 cup molasses

1 cup butter 1 tsp vanilla 1 lg. egg 2 cups AP flour 1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa 1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp baking soda 1 bag (2 cups) dried cranberries 2 bags (24 oz.) chocolate chips (whatever type of chocolate you like)

Heat oven to 375F.

Prep your cookie sheets. I like using three, so I can rotate them and have one cooling before I put more cookies onto it. If you have (new, unscratched) non-stick cookie sheets, you can just put the cookies straight onto them. If not, you can butter the sheets (works okay) or line the sheets with baking parchment paper (works beautifully).

Cream together the two sugars, or the white sugar and the molasses, into a large mixing bowl with the butter. I use the back of a large wooden spoon, mashing everything against the side of the bowl until it's pretty smooth and uniform.

Add the vanilla and the egg, and stir until they vanish into the sugar/butter mixture. You can't overmix at this stage, so go for it.

Add the flour, baking cocoa, and salt.

Sift the baking soda into the bowl with a small hand strainer. The baking soda probably has little rocks in it, and if you just dump it straight into the bowl and mix, a few cookies will end up with little rocks of baking soda in them. Unless you think baking soda flavored toothpaste is a wonderfully yummy ice cream topping or something, you won't like this. Mash the little rocks through the strainer, or just toss them out.

Mix everything until it forms a sticky dough that appears uniform. Make sure you dig your wooden spoon all the way down to the bottom of the bowl, every part, to incorporate all the sugar mixture with the flour. If you're not used to making cookies, you might need to take a break or two; that's okay.

Add the chocolate chips and the dried cranberries. Mix again until they're just evenly distributed through the dough.

Portion the dough out onto the cookie sheets. I use a 1 1/4" disher to get things fairly uniform, but I don't obsess about it; this isn't rocket science. Put the dough blobs at least an inch apart on the cookie sheet.

Lightly mash the dough balls with your palm. They should look like little fat (not thin) hamburger patties. There's a lot of stuff in these cookies, and they can use a bit of help shaping themselves. Just a bit, though -- don't try to make them the exact size and shape of the cookie you want. You're just giving them a head start.

Put the first cookie sheet into the oven, and set a timer for 13 minutes.

Portion dough out onto your other cookie sheets if you have them. How many bakes it takes depends on how big your cookie sheets are. If you can't get all the dough onto your cookie sheets, that's fine. Wait and re-use one or more sheets later.

Cycle cookie sheets through the oven, 13 minutes at a time.

As cookies come out of the oven, let them cool for about 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire cooling rack. A large dish or platter works too, if you don't have a cooling rack. Using parchment paper, I can just pick up the cookies with my fingers and put them on the rack. If you use bare or buttered cookie sheets, you might have to use a spatula to get them off.


Again, this isn't rocket science. A certain amount of fudging here or there won't ruin your cookies.

Three cookie sheets is optimal. During the bake, at any one time you'll have one sheet in the oven, one sheet with dough balls ready to go into the oven, and one sheet cooling. You can manage with two, or even just one, so long as you allow enough cooling time in between batches. If you don't let used sheets cool before putting more raw cookie dough onto them, the cookies will start to bake and spread before they go into the oven, and that'll throw the baking time off. If you want to bake cookies regularly, I highly recommend getting three cookie sheets.

If you don't have a 1 1/4" disher, or if you want to make bigger or smaller cookies, use a tablespoon to scoop up dough, and eyeball about a 1" ball (or whatever size you want) as you roll it in your hands. Add or pinch off dough until the ball is the size you want. If you're making smaller cookies, take a minute or two off the baking time. If you're making larger cookies, add a minute or two. If you've changed the size of the cookies, let the first cookie sheet cool before putting in the second one, and try a cookie. (Let them cool down to lightly warm before you try one; a warm, fresh-from-the-oven cookie will feel underbaked because it won't set until it cools.) These cookies are meant to be chewy and a bit soft, but not at all goopy. If they seem underbaked when cooled, add a minute or two of baking time. Subtract a minute or so if they seem overbaked. Once you figure it out, write down the size of the dough ball and how many minutes you baked them on a sticky note, and stick it to the recipe so you'll remember next time.

Another variable is oven temperature. Different ovens heat to different actual temperatures, even if they're both set to 375F. If you use a 1 1/4" disher but your cookies seem over- or under-baked, your oven might be a bit sideways from mine. Adjusting the temperature up or down a bit is an alternative to baking for a longer or shorter time.

If you prefer other mix-ins, try them. If you want to use dried cherries and white chocolate chips, for example, go ahead and try them. If you want to add nuts, substitute them for some of the other mix-ins. So if you want to add 1 cup of chopped walnuts, for example, subtract 1 cup of the chocolate chips. These cookies are pretty full, and a greater volume of mix-ins might make the dough balls fall apart.

Substitute regular (unwhipped) cream cheese for half the butter to give the cookies a bit of a tang.

If you prefer your cookies cookie-flavored rather than chocolate-flavored for some odd reason, don't use the unsweetened baking cocoa. Add an extra 1/4 cup of flour instead.


Tuesday, November 12, 2019

I'm on a Children's Fiction Rec List

Read Me A Story, Ink has included my story "Dragon's Hoard" as a five-star read on its list of stories to read aloud to kids, in the grade 5-8 category. Thanks to Dave Henderson, whose story "Dragon Jet Propulsion" is also on the list, for posting about it on Facebook so I could find out about it.

Our stories were originally published in Wings of Change, edited by Lyn Worthen. "Green Camouflage" by Jamie Aldis, "The Soul By Which We Measure Ours" by C.H. Hung, "Of Dragons and Centaurs" by Deb Logan, and "Old Enough to Volunteer" by Laura Ware were also in Wings of Change, and included on the recommendation list. Lyn obviously put together an awesome anthology. :D

Monday, April 8, 2019

New Release -- Uncanny Valley

A new book called The Uncanny Valley is now available!

This is a novelette, a contemporary fantasy about 10K words long, set in Silicon Valley.

"Uncanny Valley" is part of a group project called The Uncollected Anthology. It started in 2015, with a group of writers who loved urban and contemporary fantasy and wanted to write for more theme anthologies in those areas. But putting an anthology together is a lot of work, and that work doesn't stop when the book comes out. Nobody wanted to do that on a regular basis.

Then writer Dayle Dermatis got the idea of doing an uncollected anthology, where they'd write to a theme, but each writer would publish their own story as a separate e-book. They could coordinate release dates, use a cover template so the stories all looked like they went together, and have everyone chip in on promoting the project.

Later on, when bundling became viable as a do-it-yourself process, they started collecting the Uncollected Anthology, so now if you want all the stories, you can buy an actual anthology of each of the thrice-yearly issues. Or you can buy one or more of the individual stories, whichever you prefer.

Individual story: "The Uncanny Valley:"

Darcy James, a Detective Sergeant with the recently-formed Uncanny Crime Division, always has more on her plate than there are hours in the day. Hysterical civilians are screaming "Magic!" every time they catch a cold or get a flat tire. Overdosing on a new uncanny drug called Turbo results in gruesome death. And what's up with the dogs commuting into downtown every day on the train?

Somehow Darcy has to figure out what's real and what's not in a world turned inside-out, hopefully before anyone else dies.

E-book on Amazon
E-book on Kobo
E-book on iTunes
E-book on Barnes & Noble

The whole anthology:

All sorts of things make their way into a city.

They come, they breed, they adapt. One day, you’re looking at a raccoon breaking into a garbage can.

The next day, you’re not sure what you’re looking at, but it has intelligent eyes, lizard scales, and tentacles.

Should you get rid of it, or try to tame it? Spray some repellant, set out cheese for a midnight snack, or set the whole city on fire?

Can you make friends? And if you can, will it be more trouble than it’s worth?

Or will it lead to something glorious?

E-book on Amazon
E-book on Kobo
E-book on iTunes
E-book on Barnes & Noble

Thursday, February 28, 2019

New Release -- Wings of Change

A new anthology called Wings of Change released today!

Tales of wise, ancient dragons dispensing wisdom, hoarding treasure, terrorizing villages, and doing battle with noble heroes have long fascinated us. But dragons were not born old and wise, nor were heroes born brave and noble.

Wings of Change gathers tales of young dragons growing into their scales, and human youths making choices that shape their destinies -- destinies that will be forever changed by their interaction with the dragons.

My story in this book, "A Dragon's Hoard," is about a young dragon engaging on a rite of adulthood -- searching beyond the lands she knows for the first item that will form the basis of her adult hoard. Then things get weird....

This anthology contains:

"Scales of Lapis and Jasper" by Anj Dockrey
"The Greatest in Iceland" by Grayson Towler
"Trial by Fire" by Erin Fitzgerald
"Two Against the Skitters" by Jana S. Brown
"The Prize" by Melissa McShane
"The Shadow Dragon" by L.D.B. Taylor
"Care and Feeding" by Edward Ahern
"Old Enough to Volunteer" by Laura Ware
"Touch of the Silver Dragon" by Claire Davon
"Blossoms in the Desert" by Joni B. Haws
"Dragon's Hoard" by Angela Penrose
"A Most Unserious Dragon" by Annie Reed
"Dragon Jet Propulsion" by David H. Hendrickson
"Imuji" by Liz Pierce
"Green Camouflage" by Jamie Aldis
"Invincible" by Stephanie Barr
"Star Dragon" by C.M. Brennan
"The Soul By Which We Measure Ours" by C.H. Hung
"Of Dragons and Centaurs" by Deb Logan
"Claws of Change" by Deanna Baran
"The Last of a Thing" by Douglas Smith
"Saffron Dragon" by Jodi L. Milner
"A Dragon Bigger Than My Stories" by Jonathon Mast

E-book on Amazon
Paperback on Amazon
E-book on Kobo
E-book on iTunes
E-book on Barnes & Noble

New Release -- Feel the Love

A new anthology called Feel the Love just released recently.

Love. An essential and important part of the human experience. And in Feel the Love, editor Mark Leslie takes readers on a journey through the various forms of that powerful emotion. From the heartwarming to the heartbreaking, these eighteen talented writers brilliantly capture the concept of love. Comforting and thoughtful, uplifting and warm, these stories might just restore your faith in humanity.

My story in this book, "Loving Abby," is an SF story about a colony whose children begin to vanish.

This anthology contains:

“Thief” by Michael Kowal
“Death’s Other Cousin” by Lisa Silverthorne
“Making Amends” by David Stier
“Frostwitch vs. the Ravages of Time” by Dayle A. Dermatis
“The Goddess Killer” by Lauryn Christopher
“Love Locks” by Dale Hartley Emery
“Love Bots” by Dæmon Crowe
“Loving Abby” by Angela Penrose
“Foiled” by Brigid Collins
“A Love to Remember” by Tonya D. Price
“The Refurbished Companion” by Kelly Washington
“The Secret of Catnip” by Stefon Mears
“Lifeblood” by Alexandra Brandt
“Who Loves the Unloved?” by Laura Ware
“Henry and Beth at the Funeral Home” by Joe Cron
“Truth and Lies” by David H. Hendrickson
“With Love in Their Hearts” by Robert Jeschonek
“Every Day New, Bright and Beautiful” by Annie Reed

E-book on Amazon
Paperback on Amazon
E-book on Kobo
E-book on iTunes

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

New Release -- Choices, a Valdemar Anthology

A new anthology called Choices just dropped recently. It's another collection of short stories set in the world of Valdemar, created by Mercedes Lackey. This is the fourth Valdemar anthology I've had a story in, and they're always fun to write for.

For this book, I have a story about a new character. Herald Josswyn and his Companion Dashell are riding circuit and stop in the Tolm Valley, where lives an insular community governed by Baron Tolm. They find that the old Baron has died recently, and the new Baron is determined to enforce the very letter of the law, even if it leaves some of his folk in dire poverty. Herald Joss is sworn to uphold the law, but sometimes the strongest law has a postern gate through it, if you know where to look.

This anthology contains:

"With Sorrow and Joy" by Phaedra Weldon
"Of Crows and Karsites" by Kristin Schwengel
"Feathers in Deed" by Jennifer Brozek
"The Letter of the Law" by Angela Penrose
"Who We'll Become" by Dayle A. Dermatis
"Unceasing Consequences" by Elizabeth A. Vaughan
"Beyond Common Sense, She Persisted" by Janny Wurts
"Moving On" by Diana L. Paxson
"The Right Place" by Louisa Swann
"A Siege of Cranes" by Elisabeth Waters
"Cloud Born" Michele Lang
"Letters from Home" by Brigid Collins
"Friendship's Gift" by Anthea Sharp
"Enduring, Confusing, Perfect, and Strong" by Ron Collins
"The Once and Future Box" by Fiona Patton
"Acceptable Losses" by Stephanie Shaver
"Weight of a Hundred Eyes" by Dylan Birtolo
"Woman's Need Calls Me" by Mercedes Lackey

Paperback on Amazon
E-book on Amazon
E-book on Kobo
Paperback on B&N
E-book on B&N
E-book on iTunes

Monday, May 1, 2017

New Release -- No Humans Allowed

An anthology called No Humans Allowed, edited by John Helfers, has just released. I have a story in it called "The Scent of Murder." It's an SF mystery where an alien troubleshooter has a problem. The Terran captain of a trading ship has suffered a catastrophic fluid rupture and died while docked at an Yzantris station. Thinker of Useful Ideas Yazvoras is on a deadline to figure out who murdered the human before the Terran ambassador claims the crime scene and has it removed. The time limit is completely unreasonable, but aliens are often incomprehensible. And as the Yzantris say, the world is. No Humans Allowed is part of the Fiction River anthology series by WMG Publishing.

Humans prove great fodder for fiction. But what about the universe of possibilities offered by the nonhuman protagonist? The eighteen daring humans of Fiction River’s latest volume explore just that. From a goblin who must choose whether to risk everything for love to a heroic rat adventuring at sea to sentient underpants (yes, underpants), these nonhuman tales demonstrate why Adventures Fantastic says: “If you haven’t checked out Fiction River yet, you should. There’s something for everyone.”

This volume contains….

“In the Beginnings” by Annie Reed
“At His Heels a Stone” by Lee Allred
“In the Empire of Underpants” by Robert T. Jeschonek
“The Sound of Salvation” by Leslie Claire Walker
“Goblin in Love” by Anthea Sharp
“Slime and Crime” by Michèle Laframboise
“Always Listening” by Louisa Swann
“Here I Will Dance” by Stefon Mears
“Rats at Sea” by Brenda Carre
“Sense and Sentientability” by Lisa Silverthorne
“When a Good Fox Goes to War” by Kim May
“The Game of Time” by Felicia Fredlund
“The Scent of Murder” by Angela Penrose
“Still-Waking Sleep” by Dayle A. Dermatis
“Inhabiting Sweetie” by Dale Hartley Emery
“The Legend of Anlahn” by Eric Kent Edstrom
“Sheath Hopes” by Thea Hutcheson
“We, The Ocean” by Alexandra Brandt

PS -- "Empire of Underpants" is great! :D

Paperback on Amazon
E-book on Amazon
E-book on Kobo
Paperback on B&N
E-book on B&N