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Celestial Goldfish

May 2015

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May. 31st, 2015

Celestial Goldfish

Sunday Quote is at Phoenix Comicon

Originally published at BethCato.com. You can comment here or there.

“As for “Write what you know,” I was regularly told this as a beginner. I think it’s a very good rule and have always obeyed it. I write about imaginary countries, alien societies on other planets, dragons, wizards, the Napa Valley in 22002. I know these things. I know them better than anybody else possibly could, so it’s my duty to testify about them.”
~ Ursula Le Guin

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May. 29th, 2015

Celestial Goldfish

B is for Broken

Originally published at BethCato.com. You can comment here or there.

You might remember that last year I was part of the A is for Apocalypse anthology. The Alphabet series continues with B is for Broken, out this week!

B is for Broken

Broken people, broken promises, broken dreams and broken objects are just some of the ways these 26 fantastic stories interpret the theme of ‘Broken’. From science fiction to fantasy, horror to superheroes the stories within these pages cover a vast swath of the genres under the speculative fiction umbrella.

Featuring original fiction by:

~ Brittany Warman ~ Milo James Fowler ~ C.S. MacCath ~ Sara Cleto ~ Samantha Kymmell-Harvey ~ Megan Arkenberg ~ Gary B. Phillips ~ Alexandra Seidel ~ Jonathan C. Parrish ~ Simon Kewin ~ Beth Cato ~ Cory Cone ~ Cindy James ~ Alexis A. Hunter ~ Michael M. Jones ~ Steve Bornstein ~ BD Wilson ~ Michael Kellar ~ Damien Angelica Walters ~ Marge Simon ~ Michael Fosburg ~ Suzanne van Rooyen ~ L.S. Johnson ~ Pete Aldin ~ Gabrielle Harbowy ~ Lilah Wild ~ KV Taylor ~


Excerpt from K is for…
by Beth Cato

The man on the rock looks up at us. His face so sad, emotion sharp, like a slap to the face. Tommy grunted like it hit him, too.

“Tommy Smith. George Blackworth.” He says my name and I feel it in my bones, like my mother, God rest her, yelling out the back door.

“Who’re you?” I ask.

“Who am I?” He stares at his hands. “A king without a queen, proof that the undying are not immortal.”


 

You can buy the book in most electronic formats and in paper:
Kobo
Smashwords
Amazon (paperback and kindle)
Barnes & Noble

Add it to your shelf on Goodreads.

May. 27th, 2015

Celestial Goldfish

Bready or Not: Mint Chocolate Chip Bars

Originally published at BethCato.com. You can comment here or there.

These super-easy bars are packed with chocolate and minty goodness.

Mint Choc Chip Bars

My husband’s favorite flavors include snickerdoodle, lemon, and chocolate mint. I figured I was overdue to revisit that last flavor.

Mint Choc Chip Bars

I had a bag of dark chocolate and mint chips I picked up on holiday clearance. Therefore, I used that whole bag to account for the 1 cup of dark chocolate and 1 cup of mint chips. You could easily do this with chocolate from separate bags or even use more York Patties to substitute for the mint chips.

Mint Choc Chip Bars

The basic fact is, you want a variety of dark chocolate and mint chocolate, and there are a lot of paths to achieve that. I do like the mix I used here–it’s pretty!

Not only is it photogenic, but it’s pretty darn tasty, too.

Mint Choc Chip Bars

Modified from Chocolate Chips Bars at Roxana’s Home Baking.

Bready or Not: Mint Chocolate Chip Bars

Mint Choc Chip Bars

Decadent yet easy-to-make mint chocolate chip bars.

  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup mint chocolate chips
  • 1 cup York Peppermint Patties (or similar), chopped

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Line a 13x9 baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and apply nonstick spray.

In a food processor or mixer, add the flour, cocoa, sugar, butter and egg. Mix for a few minutes, until it resembles coarse crumbs. Scoop out 3/4 cup and it aside.

Take the rest of the cookie dough out and press it into the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the 1 cup of dark chocolate (microwave or stovetop), then mix it with the can of condensed milk and the reserved cookie dough. This creates a thick, muddy batter.

Remove the partially-baked crust from the oven and gently spread the chocolate mix over it as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the mint chips and chopped York patties over the top.

Bake for another 25 minutes. Let it cool completely in the pan before using the parchment/foil to lift it out of dish for easier cutting.

OM NOM NOM!

 

Mint Choc Chip Bars

May. 26th, 2015

Celestial Goldfish

Tips for Phoenix Comicon

Originally published at BethCato.com. You can comment here or there.

Phoenix Comicon kicks off this Thursday and goes through Sunday. I’ll be attending every day; my panels and signings are listed online.

I’ve attended Phoenix Comicon for four years. The first two years, I was just another fan in the crowd. Last year I sat on panels for the first time (for the first time ever), though my book wasn’t out yet. This time, I am doing All the Things since The Clockwork Dagger is out. The Clockwork Crown will even on sale early at the Poisoned Pen event and at Mysterious Galaxy inside Phoenix Comicon!

[Last year: Me and Rachel, all dressed up and ready for heat strokes!]

[Last year: Me and Rachel, all dressed up and ready for heat strokes!]

My point is, I’ve experienced the con from all sides. Here’s the scoop on the good, the bad, and the annoying at an otherwise all-star awesome event:

Saturday has the most going on, but it’s also the busiest. Introverts beware.
30,000+ people on Saturday. Imagine most of them trying to get to the basement exhibition hall, all at once. Yeah. It can be a 30 minute trek just to get down the stairs/escalators, and that’s in an intimate pack of costumed humanity, and then it’s hard to even look at the goodies for sale because it’s so busy.

If crowds get to you, go on Friday or Sunday. It’s still very busy, but it’s not quite as bad. Also, if you need alone space, going upstairs from the main level is a much quieter place. I speak from experience. My second year at the con, as just an attending fan, I had a panic attack and required about a 30 minute walk outside to calm down and face the cacophony again.

Phone, internet, and messaging services are not reliable.
Last I heard, the convention center was working to improve this, but this must be mentioned as a precaution: service in past years has been BAD. Anywhere around the center was unreliable, but going downstairs to the exhibition hall meant entering an internet dead zone. A few years ago, this caused headaches for me as I kept messaging a friend to meet-up and didn’t know our messages kept failing. Vendors had huge problems if they used things like Square. Last year, I switched my phone to airplane mode most of the time so the battery wouldn’t suck dry in the search for a connection.

I really, really hope this isn’t as much an issue this year, but be prepared. If you’re splitting up from friends, arrange a time and location to meet. You know, like days of yore, before cell phones.

taco guild - from left, chicken, lamb, duck

[Taco Guild – from left, chicken, lamb, duck]

- As River famously pointed out in Firefly, food is problematic.
It’s a convention center. It’s not fine dining. Expect meh food that’s expensive and requires a long wait in line. The one bright spot in past years has been the frozen yogurt stand, but even that has had long lines (with melting yogurt), and the toppings are pretty well pillaged by afternoon.

Bring snacks and a water bottle to continually fill. Heck, pack a lunch box. If you want to eat out, do some research. I use Yelp to look at menus and bookmark promising places. I have only been to a few places within walking distance, but I really liked La Piazza last year. Great salad and pizza. It’s a few blocks west of the con. Some of the best dining in the whole country is just a block away–namely, Pizzeria Bianco and Nobuo at Teeter House, though I haven’t tried them for myself. Someday…!

grilled romaine

[Taco Guild’s amazing grilled romaine salad]

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wondrous Taco Guild. It has the best tacos, frozen margaritas, AND best grilled romaine salads I’ve had in my life. It is a few miles north, but it’s well worth the drive if you want something that is quintessentially Phoenix.

Speaking of walking or trekking outside…

It’s hot outside. Phoenix is NOT cosplay friendly if you wear layers.
This is where I was stupid last year. I consider myself pretty well adapted to heat, but that heat is a whole lot worse when you’re in insulated boots, a long and tiered skirt, and a corset all day long. Plus, my steampunk costumes made using the bathroom very awkward (petticoats are EVIL), so I didn’t drink enough water. Even if you’re indoors most of the time, your body will be taxed because of the extreme heat. Drink fluids constantly. Be aware of how your body is responding to your environment. Give yourself permission to NOT be in cosplay all day long, every day.

This year, I will have a hotel room close by. I plan to wear more casual, geeky attire most of the time. I’ll save my steampunk gear for an evening or two.

Those panel rooms are set to Freeze Your Tushy Off.
Here’s the bizarre contrast to the blazes furnaces of hell just outside the building. The panel rooms are smaller and the air conditioning blows right down on the audience. If you’re sensitive to cold, you might want to bring a light cardigan. Author Gini Koch is easily recognizable at conventions because she brings bright pink ear muffs to combat the chilly rooms. She’s a smart lady.

I hope that a few people find this advice helpful. Phoenix Comicon is a wonderful event, run by passionate fans. There’s a reason why I keep going back every year, and why it’s become such a draw for authors from all over the world. Be prepared, take care of yourself, and geek out!

May. 25th, 2015

Celestial Goldfish

Elevengeddon!

Originally published at BethCato.com. You can comment here or there.

The Clockwork Crown by Beth CatoOn Wednesday, eleven seventeen authors unite to sign books and generally goof off in advance of Phoenix Comicon. The big event happens at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona at 7pm. The Clockwork Crown will be on sale for the first time! Check out the full line-up in snazzy alphabetical order:

Stephen Blackmoore
Beth Cato
Wes Chu
Myke Cole
Delilah S. Dawson
Kevin Hearne
Jason Hough
Richard Kadrey
Michael Martinez
Brian McClellan
Naomi Novik
Andrea Phillips
Cherie Priest
Brian Staveley
Sam Sykes
Chuck Wendig
Django Wexler

If you’re not able to come, fear not! (Or maybe you should fear?) You can order books through Poisoned Pen and have them autographed and shipped to you!

May. 24th, 2015

Celestial Goldfish

Sunday Quote gears up for Phoenix Comicon next weekend

Originally published at BethCato.com. You can comment here or there.

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of.”
~Joss Whedon

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May. 22nd, 2015

Celestial Goldfish

End of May News

Originally published at BethCato.com. You can comment here or there.

First of all… look! A giveaway! It runs through Friday.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato

The Clockwork Dagger

by Beth Cato

Giveaway ends May 22, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win

My publisher did a really nice post congratulating me on my Locus nomination. Awww.

Remember the #TwitterFiction I did last Wednesday? You can now read the whole event in a convenient Storify format!

SheKnows.com included The Clockwork Crown on their list of 15 most anticipated spring and summer books! Huzzah!

I’m at Kate Heartfield’s site to talk about Unlikely Influences: What Beth Cato Learned About Writing by Baking Cookies. I know. Feign surprise at the subject matter.

Do you want to know more about research books I used for The Clockwork Dagger series? Find out in Magic and World War I Medicine at Teresa Frohock’s Blog.

For a general overview on medicians, read Medicians in The Clockwork Dagger at David Walton’s blog.

I also had a post at SF Signal with Developing Miss Percival as a Sympathetic Villain.

I was interviewed by the East Valley Tribune about my books and Phoenix Comicon.

Whew. I think that’s it. Things are crazy here right now. My son finishes up his 4th grade year today. Tomorrow is my 15th anniversary. I’m trying to edit a few stories and work on promotional stuff for Crown‘s release. I only have a few days left to prepare for Phoenix Comicon.

YES. I CAN DO THIS. …Right?

gooooooaaaal

May. 21st, 2015

Celestial Goldfish

Story Behind the Story: “Roots, Shallow and Deep” and the Mussel Slough Tragedy

Originally published at BethCato.com. You can comment here or there.

My newest story is a special one for me: a magical twist on a real historical event that took place near my hometown. It’s called “Roots, Shallow and Deep” and it can be read at Urban Fantasy Magazine.

I was in 3rd grade when another 3rd grade class visited to perform their own dramatization of the Mussel Slough Tragedy. It was described as a local incident straight out of the Old West: settlers facing off against the greedy railroad. The kids pretended to shoot each other and writhed in death throes on the portable’s carpet.

I rushed home that day, indignant.

“MOM. HOW COME YOU DIDN’T TELL ME ABOUT THE MUSSEL SLOUGH TRAGEDY?” I was seven or eight then, already keenly interested in history, and I felt like she had withheld some grand treasure from me.

Mom stammered out an explanation, and the end result was a detour that next Sunday to visit the site of the tragedy on our way to church. It made me even more livid when I discovered it was literally a few miles north of the house were I grew up, a straight shot on 14th Avenue.

Mussel Slough Marker near Grangeville, California

Mussel Slough Marker near Grangeville, California

I never forgot about the tragic shoot-out that took place almost exactly a hundred years before I was born. In recent years, I’ve collected numerous books on San Joaquin Valley history through that era, some specifically about the Mussel Slough Tragedy. It remains a contentious event with lots of he-said, she-said debate. Settlers claimed that the Southern Pacific was stealing their land from beneath them; the railroad claimed the settlers were squatters. The settlers who survived the incident were later hailed as heroes by the press, like valiant knights against “the octopus” of the mighty railroad conglomerate. I figure the truth is somewhere in the middle.

I made a quick visit home last weekend. Some things don’t change; on our way to church, I begged my mom to make a detour out to the Mussel Slough site so I could take pictures for my blog. The ancient house behind the marker was in the process of being torn down. Almond trees stood in sentinel rows behind the hard-to-read state historical marker. So much of the original fight versus the railroad was because of the settlers’ efforts to irrigate the land, and to be compensated for their efforts. Now, with the drought, there was no water flowing through those ditches.

Home still looks beautiful and green to me, in contrast to Arizona, but it grieves me to see how the land and the people suffer. I look at my story and how people fought to bring water to the valley, and I shake my head. Things never really change.

May. 20th, 2015

Celestial Goldfish

Bready or Not: Mocha Shortbread

Originally published at BethCato.com. You can comment here or there.

Combine the awesomeness of shortbread and chocolate in a single pan!

Mocha Shortbread

I loved shortbread from the time I was a kid and we’d buy those precious boxes of Walker’s Shortbread at the Fresno Highland Games. Now you can buy Walker’s everywhere, but in the late ’80s and 1990s? It was a real treat.

Mocha Shortbread

This chocolate shortbread is a real treat, too. It creates tender yet firm bars that combine all the best of buttery shortbread, mocha, and espresso.

Mocha Shortbread

I first made this by mixing in mini chocolate chips (replacing the cocoa nibs in the original recipe). When I wanted a good cookie recipe to mail during an Arizona summer, I thought of shortbread because it ships and keeps so well, but chocolate chips would melt. Therefore, I made the recipe again with melted chocolate in the dough. The versions tasted the same and the new version shipped cross-country without any issues.

Mocha Shortbread

I think the biggest issue here is that it tastes so good–especially with coffee or tea–that there’s a tendency to gobble down shortbread bars as if they are potato chips.

Bet you can’t eat just one!

Mocha Shortbread

Modified from Mocha Shortbread as printed in Martha Stewart Living.

Bready or Not: Mocha Shortbread

Mocha Shortbread

Chocolate, espresso, and butter are blended into perfect rectangles of joy in this mocha shortbread recipe.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (either kept whole, or melted in microwave to blend into dough; the latter ships well, even in summer heat)

Prepare a 9x13 baking pan with foil or parchment, and apply nonstick spray. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat softened butter with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is very light, about 2 minutes, then stir in the vanilla extract and espresso powder. Mix about one more minute until it's smooth.

Slowly pour in the flour mixture and mix until it just comes together. Add in the chocolate (either in chips or melted). Press dough evenly into the prepared pan. Press plastic wrap over the top and use that to smooth the dough with your hands or a spatula. Refrigerate until the dough is firm, at least an hour and up to a day.

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Leaving the dough in the pan, use a knife to slash the dough into small rectangles and then use a fork or chopstick to poke holes in top of each bar.

Bake until set, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes, then re-cut bars. Let it cool completely then use the foil or parchment to lift out the shortbread and separate bars. Store covered up to one week.

OM NOM NOM!

May. 17th, 2015

Celestial Goldfish

Sunday Quote congratulates Corey and Henry on their marriage!

Originally published at BethCato.com. You can comment here or there.

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”
~Octavia Butler

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