Thursday, July 28, 2016

Win An E-book Copy of Atrophy!

Here's your chance to win a copy of Atrophy and catch up on the series before Quantum comes out!

What more could you want? Well, maybe a just a snippet of the prize:

Onboard the Imojenna, somewhere in void-space

“So, tell me how we’re not going to explode this time?” Zahli Sherron grabbed onto the back of her brother’s chair, the wail of multiple warning alarms and urgent flash of red emergency lights cutting right through her skull until her head throbbed.
If it weren’t for the fact she knew the Imojenna was just a ship of mechanical parts, she would have sworn the old girl had a mind of her own. One that occasionally tried to kill them.
Dizzying weightlessness pulled at her as internal gravity failed, and she held tighter to the back of the captain’s chair. That was all they needed—one more malfunction added to the impressive list of utilities already flat-lining. If the heat was anything to go by, environmentals had failed for the fifth time this month.
Rian slammed a fist against his console. “Come on you fat assed, lazy whore!”
“You know she always gets into a mood when you call her names.” Gravity returned and Zahli’s knees jarred when her feet thumped back down to the floor.
“I wouldn’t have to call her names if she’d cooperate once in a while. Why aren’t you belted in?” Rian glanced over his shoulder at her and wiped at the sweat running down the side of his face. Her brother turned his attention back to the display screen across the main viewport as data flashed, warning about the impending depressurization of the cargo bay from a hull breech. “Not the Grigorian liquor, you crotchety bitch!”
Automated full ship lock down and venting of cargo bay in thirty seconds,” the monotone voice of the Imojenna announced.
Frecking great. When the last lockdown had sectioned up the Imojenna, the bridge hadn’t opened afterward with the rest of the ship, and it’d taken almost an entire rotation to override the command. She’d thought it kind of funny at the time because she’d been on the outside. Next time Rian tried to buy hull sections from a dodgy parts dealer on some backwater moon, a slap upside the head should remind him not to bother.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Out and About

With Quantum coming out on the 8th of August, I've got a few things lined up to celebrate. Want to win some prizes or ask me about my books? Then here's where you can find me in the coming weeks:

27th of July - Guest post on the Science Fiction Romance Brigade blog
27th of July from 8pm to 9pm (US EDT) - the Entangled July Paranormal Event on Facebook (with prizes!)

3rd of August - Guest post on Romancing the Book blog

8th of August - Guest Post on the Science Fiction Romance Brigade blog
8th of August - Guest post on Ever After Romance blog
8th of August - Fortune Teller Day of Entangled Publishing's Summer Carnival (more details to follow, also with prizes!) 

There may be a few more, so I'll post them as they're locked in and organized. For now, I've got writing to do!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Just Finished Watching... Edge Of Tomorrow

You know, I'm not a huge Tom Cruise fan. I was way too young to appreciate him in Top Gun (try 4 years old... and actually, I've never watched that movie in its entirety, only seen bits and pieces when its been on TV over the years) I'm not a Mission: Impossible fan and the only thing I took away from Jerry Maguire was "SHOW ME THE MONEY!"
But I have to admit, the man can make a movie. I've seen his other recent sci-fi offering, Oblivion, but I think Edge of Tomorrow was the better of the two.
Warning, this post contains some spoilers!
The premise of this story is a firm favorite of mine; a reluctant soldier fighting aliens has to relive the same day over and over again, the day restarting every time he dies.
I absolutely love a Ground Hog day story. Any time one of my favorite TV shows does it (Stargate SG1 and Supernatural always come to mind as examples of shows that have done this brilliantly) I'm pretty much in heaven. That, and the fact this was a sci-fi were the only two elements which made me want to watch this movie. However, I ended up enjoying it far more than I expected. 
This was the kind of character-driven story I like to see, though usually I'm consuming them in TV series format and the evolution of the character happens over a long period of time, often taking years.
For William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow, the journey from reluctant participant to outright hero was fast and brutal. And I have to say I was very impressed with how the sometimes obligatory blockbuster movie romance between Cage and his counterpart heroine, Rita Vrataski, (played by Emily Blunt) was woven into the story. The audience wasn't clobbered over the head with it, nor was it ever completely forgotten in favor of other story elements. It built up along with the tension as Cage went from simply trying to survive the day, to actively intending to beat the alien invasion.
As the story built toward the inevitable bloody ending, and each character was killed off one by one, I thought this was going to be case of a movie where the main characters die, but the world is saved, so its a hollow kind of happily ever after. However, the surprise in this ending came in Cage regaining the ability to loop time (after losing it that day and expecting that he would no longer be able to right things if he or Rita were killed) taking him to an earlier time hours before his original reset point. However, instead of everything being the same and faced with killing the aliens again, Cage finds that the world is reporting a mysterious event had occurred and the aliens have basically dropped dead, meaning the final battle that Cage had spent the whole movie trying to fix doesn't even end up coming about, and he is the only one with memory of what happened. Cage goes to find Rita, who of course doesn't remember him, and the movie closes on Cage looking relieved and happy. You can just imagine that he's going to take her out for a drink, tell her what happened and they'll live happily ever after.
Now, for a lot of people, I can see this ending would have caused a lot of wtf-ery. For myself, only my previous experience with movies and TV shows dealing in time travel, and some thinking on my part meant I wasn't totally thrown. I have to say, however, when the movie initially finished, I did yell rather loudly "what the hell just happened?"
But, the theory I have is this: because the aliens controlled time, when Cage killed them and regained the power of time looping, their death happened outside the normal bounds of the space-time continuum, which is where they probably existed anyway. Still with me? Cage was dying when he regained the power, and I have to imagine one of his last dying thoughts was wishing he could go back before it all started. So though he didn't realize what he was doing (and since the power is never really explained in depth, this is just a guess on my part) I have to think that Cage sent himself back to an earlier point, well before his usual reset place, to a time before he was even told that he would be joining the battle front.
So, as I said, I ended up enjoying this movie far more than I expected. Though some hard-core sci fi fans might complain about the lack of explanation behind a lot of the story concepts, I was happy to go with it in return for a great character-growth story arc and understated but excellent undertones of romance. However, being an action movie, this was on the violent side, with too many different kinds of death scenes of both Cage and other characters to count. Not for the squeamish, but if you can stomach a bit of graphic violence and Tom Cruise, then I think this movie is definitely worth watching. I might even see it a second time!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Gluten Free Bread Recipe for Bread Machine -- Going All In

So after another two unsuccessful attempts at hand baking this week, which resulted in another loaf not rising and not tasting all that great, and a fourth (is it four now? I've lost count!) loaf tasting okay but crumbling to the point I couldn't even pick up a piece without it breaking apart, I went back to the drawing board, reading A LOT of articles and recipes from various sources about gluten free baking, the different kinds of flours, working out which were considered heavy, medium, light etc, and the other types of ingredients people used with successful results.
To make my challenge even harder, I was avoiding the use of the "easy" gluten free flours that are considered to be junk carbs. They have no real nutritional value and will spike your blood glucose level (like eating slices of sugar, really) after you consume them. This being rice flour, tapioca flour, maize flour and potato flour. I also wanted to avoid soy flour, because as someone who has had extensive issues with endometriosis in the past, I was advised by both my obstetrician/gynecologist after the birth of my 2nd kid, and by my naturopath that soy products have been proven to interrupt and interfere with the production and management of some hormones. For someone without hormone issues, soy probably might be a healthy diet addition. For myself, not so much.
Anyway, I was also trying to avoid using xanthan gum as a lot of gluten free recipes do. While probably not entirely unhealthy, I quickly found there were healthier alternatives, such as psyllium husk powder. I also didn't want to use eggs (a common ingredient in gluten free baking) as I seem to have sensitive taste buds and while I like eggs, I didn't want that eggy taste in my bread.
So, I wasn't making things easy for myself!
After much reading, research and consideration, I decided that I was going to employ the use of my bread machine for the next experiment. After all, doesn't seem much point of having it in my cupboard if I'm not going to use it anymore (I used to frequently put packet mixes of bread through the machine instead of buying a loaf until this whole gluten free thing started) though I was most worried about this experiment because I knew the bread would be more likely to fail in the machine if the measurements weren't correct.
But, I'm happy to say that my first from-scratch attempt in the bread machine was the closest to success I've had yet! I'm going to make some adjustments for liquid and baking time for the next round, but this bread was definitely a winner and we've nearly finished the entire loaf. I'll probably be making another tomorrow. Just before I get to the actual recipe, a side note, I have used oat flour in this, and for people with Coeliac disease, that technically doesn't make it gluten free. However, apparently the gluten in oats is slightly different from the gluten in wheat, so some people with NCGI (non-coeliac gluten intolerance, which is what we're dealing with in my family) are able to eat oats without issue. But don't just take my word for it, always consult with your doctor and do your research.
So here's what I came up with:

1 1/2 cups oat flour 
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup arrowroot (arrowroot is almost the same as tapioca, I know but they are technically different, sourced from two totally different plants. Supposedly, arrowroot is the better of the two health-wise)
1 tablespoon coconut flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons psyllium husk powder
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons of chia seeds in one cup of water, left to sit for at least 30 minutes until they become gel-like
1/2 cup milk (I used goats milk, but a milk alternative such as almond or coconut should be fine)
130mls water
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (or melted coconut oil)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1) mix the chia seeds into 1 cup water, whisk and leave for at least 30 minutes.
2) mix all remaining dry ingredients together.
3) mix all wet ingredients together (including chia seeds gel, which is the egg substitute)
4) add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and fold together until combined.
5) put in bread machine tin/pan and set machine as per machine's instructions.

Now, I have a gluten free setting on my bread machine, which makes things a whole lot easier. The only thing I will say is that the baking setting was not long enough, and my bread sank a little in the middle after I took it out. I was also slightly doughy still at the bottom, but only right in the middle near the paddle, so next time I'm going to back it for another 20 minutes. It'll mean my crust will be extra dark and crunchy, but I don't mind that, especially if it means the middle is cooked well!
So, I have found a gluten free mix for my bread machine that I'm very happy with. The next item on my baking list to conquer is scones!

Note: Jan 2017
**I'd like to try and improve on this, as it's actually been hit and miss. I can't work it out because I swear I do the same thing every time, but sometimes this recipe works, and sometimes it doesn't. Sorry if it causes and baking catastrophes for anyone, but I will update this post once I get it to be foolproof.**

Monday, July 11, 2016

Just Finished Watching... Red Dawn (2012)

I'll admit, I'm not much of a movie buff. Very occasionally I'll go to the cinema and catch a blockbuster, but it happens very rarely these days in my busy life. I will be making an exception when the new Star Trek movie comes out in just under two weeks.
But I do have Netflix (the much smaller Aussie version anyway. Maybe in like ten years our content will be closer to the US) and while I got it for the TV shows, I decided that I really should start watching a movie every now and then.
SO. Last night I picked Red Dawn. It was staring Chris Hemsworth. Need I say more?
Maybe its also worth mentioning that Thor is joined by Peeta from Hunger Games and Bobbi from Agents of Shield to create this kick-ass team.
Seriously though, the premise sounded interesting: "A group of teenagers look to save their town from an invasion of North Korean soldiers."
I have since seen online that a lot of reviews bagged this movie, and I have to admit, that summed it up pretty well. "North Korean paratroopers descend on an American small town. U.S. military resistance collapses. Korean armored vehicles roll down the streets unopposed except for a band of heavily armed bros in hoodies."
However, most of these bad reviews pick at the fact that North Korea invading the US is completely ridiculous, enough so that viewers can't even suspend belief long enough to enjoy this movie.
For me, not having seen the 1984 version with Patrick Swayze, I had nothing to compere it to, and wasn't looking for any deep and meaningful commentary on the state of the world's military tensions. I just wanted to watch a movie where Chris Hemsworth walks around with a huge-ass gun generally looking hot.
And hoping to god he took his shirt off at some stage (side-note: he did not remove his shirt, much to my disappointment, though he did lift it up a little at one stage to get some stitches).
Anyhoo, if you can leave all reality of the might and invincibility of America's military at the door, then this movie isn't half bad.
Don't get me wrong, there were a few gaping plot holes, like if the town was so heavily guarded and locked down, how on earth did the teens keep managing to get in and out of town for supplies and an increasing stockpile of weapons without getting caught? And how were they able to just brazenly walk around and plant bombs everywhere without anyone noticing? Anyhow, maybe leave your logic at the door with reality and not think about anything much beyond how blue Chris Hemsworth eyes are. Seriously, what is up with that?
Ahem. Anyway, this movie is unapologetically violent and brutal to its cast of main characters, so its really not for the faint of heart (despite it apparently having a PG13 rating in the US. Sheesh, I wouldn't be letting my 13 year old watch this!). One thing this film definitely got right was the suspense. Almost right from the word go, it amps up the tension and leaves you (or at least me) clutching a cushion for the next hour and a half, waiting for the moment everyone is going to die. Because you just get that sense that there's no way they can all survive this, especially when they start actively attacking the invading forces.
Characters are killed off left, right and center, and usually just when you think they're safe or are actually going to get away with whatever suicidal plan they've come up with next.
Without giving away any spoilers, I guessed the outcome for Chris Hemsworth's character about half way through the movie, but the ending was rolled out fairly well, so even though it all finished pretty much how I guessed, the method managed to surprise me.
Oh, and one other great surprise in this movie: Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Ever since seeing him in Grey's anatomy (Denny, my heart still hurts over that) and as John Winchester (that time I was possibly more attracted to the hot guy's dad more than the hot guy [but it was Dean Winchester, who, let's face it, is the embodiment of every sexy bad boy hero out there. And since John got killed off, I didn't need to agonize over it anymore] ) I have been a huge Jeffrey Dean Morgan fan. I mean really, the guy pretty much turns every scene to gold.
So, I enjoyed this for the fact that it was a fast action and suspense movie. But its really not anything more than that, so if you can't get over the impossibility of the premise or can't ignore the plot holes, or can't stomach intense, continuous violence, then it definitely isn't for everyone. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Experimenting with Gluten Free Baking

Recently one of my family members was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, so we had to make some changes in our meal planning. We found a gluten free bread from a bakery that was very nice; delicious tasting and very bread-like. However, upon closer inspection, I found this bread was mostly made from tapicoa/arrowroot flour, rice flour, maize (corn), potato and soy flour. Depending on who you talk to, these can be considered the "bad" gluten free flours as they can make your blood sugar spike after consuming them. I figure this bread will be okay to eat sometimes, but not all the time.
I have always enjoyed baking, so I was very interested in seeing how I went baking with gluten free flours, which do not act the same way as wheat, and require different liquid to dry ratios.
So far, I've been fairly successful with biscuits, muffins, and cakes, but when it comes to bread and scones, I am failing miserably.
But, not to be defeated, I've been reading a lot of different recipes and articles on baking gluten free bread. I went to my local health food store and bought all sorts of flours -- teff flour, buckwheat flour, coconut flour, almond meal and chia four. Let the experimenting begin!
Yesterday, I attempted a buckwheat and chia bread, which completely failed miserably, though I forgot to take a picture of it. I had read that chia flour will soak up the liquid, but I think I over compensated a little too much, and the bread remained doughy no matter how long I cooked it. The non-doughy bits were only so-so in the taste department, buckwheat having quite a distinctive flavor.
Today I have tried a teff and coconut flour bread, with a touch of almond meal. In the taste department, this bread ticks all the boxes. Its really delicious, but the coconut flour gives it a dense, again somewhat doughy texture. I used yeast, baking powder and eggs to get it to rise, but this wasn't very successful. I put it straight on to bake, but wonder if I should have let it warm for an hour first to get the yeast to activate more.
At least I won't be throwing this bread out. Its a little flat, and yes denser than I'd hoped, but its very definitely edible.
Next time, I think I'll try less coconut, maybe add a small amount of buckwheat, and give the dough an hour to rise before baking. If I ever do manage to nut out a successful recipe, I'll definitely post it here to share.

Incident Report IBC-726A-39

FORMAL INCIDENT REPORT SECTION ONE Incident Date:___ 25 th August 2436 __ Incident Time:___ 22 :30 hours approx ___ Incident...