New Paperbacks! Rainbow’s Lodestone and Star-drake

I had a lot of trouble getting CreateSpace to honor the margins specified in my files for the paperback editions of Rainbow’s Lodestone and Star-drake. Then – margins sorted – the next proof copies featured the colors all wrong. It was all so discouraging, that I allowed months to elapse between wrestling bouts with the two books. Finally, in November 2014, nearly nine months after I started, the two books were ready to be approved and released!

Take a look!

Rainbow POD photo

A lost birthright and unending agony.

On a whim, the rainbow’s child falls to earth, where a cruel adversary takes advantage of her innocence. Can she reclaim her thunder-swept heavens? Must she dwindle and die?

This transcendent short story set in the troll-ridden North-lands explores how inner freedom creates outer opportunities.

Earth trumps heaven until ancient music plays.

Rainbow’s Lodestone as a paperback:
Amazon.com I Amazon DE I Amazon ES I Amazon UK I CreateSpace

PRAISE FOR RAINBOW’S LODESTONE AND STAR-DRAKE

“…almost “Tolkienesque”…the stories feel like they’re happening on the Earth we know, but long before our recorded history… Despite the fact that it deals with a grim act of mischief, [Rainbow’s Lodestone is] a delightful read. The enchanting thing about it is the personification of the Rainbow, and the general attitude she has towards her fate in the story… All in all, these are wonderful stories… Ney-Grimm’s unique blend of Nordic fantasy and fairy tale mentality is a refreshing take on the genre, and [her] poetic style of writing (whichever tone she uses) adds a special sheen to the work. I read a lot of fiction, and I can honestly say I’ve not come across anything quite like this.” – James J. Parsons, Speaking to the Eyes

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Star-drake POD photo

Gefnen – troll-herald and hound for Koschey the Deathless – hunts life across the moors of the far north.

Not deer, not pheasant, not meat for the table. His master eats choicer fruits.

When the piercing scent of youth tingles his senses, Gefnen focuses his chase. The prey – a boy – lacks guardians strong enough to best a troll. Swift triumph awaits.

But other seekers tilt the chances of this game. Spirit of storm, poignant memories of a sea-prince, and something more ancient than memory or the wind shape the looming tumult.

Gefnen hunts victory, but a darker victory hunts him.

Star-drake as a paperback:
Amazon.com I Amazon DE I Amazon ES I Amazon UK I CreateSpace

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London Broil at Casa Ney-Grimm

londo 600 pxI adore the savor of London broil, but for decades I didn’t realize how easy it is to make at home. Now that I prefer to serve grassfed meat to my family, I’ve discovered that London broil is one of the easiest to find and most reasonably priced cuts of grassfed beef available. Here’s how I make it.

Ingredients
london marinade2 to 2-1/2 pounds London broil beef

Marinade
4 garlic cloves, minced or put through a garlic press
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons brown mustard
1-1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2/3 cup olive oil

london broilerDirections
Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a bowl.

Put the meat in a resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade into the bag. Seal the bag, pressing out the air.

Put the bag in a shallow dish in the refrigerator. Marinate for 8 hours or over night. Turn the bag twice.

When ready to cook, remove the meat from the marinade and let the liquid drip off it. Discard the marinade.

Place the meat on a broiling pan and set it under the broiler. I use the second rack slot from the broiler coils, about 4 inches away. Broil the first side for 10 minutes. (The meat in my photo was broiled for 11 minutes, which was a bit too long. It was still scrumptious; I just prefer mine more rare.) Flip the meat and broil the second side for 9 minutes.

london cookedTransfer the meat to a cutting board. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Cut it diagonally across the grain in thin slices. Serve.

More recipes:
Butternut Soup
Apples á la Ney-Grimm
Pie Crust Cookies

 

Building Wild’s Cover

As I gain experience with building covers for my books, I find the process growing more and more like painting with Photoshop. All of my covers, even the earliest ones, required some manipulation in Photoshop. Darkening the blacks. Balancing the colors. Adding to the edges of the art when those edges were ragged or simply didn’t give me enough extra for the trimming that occurs when paperback books are made.

But the cover for Hunting Wild required the most “painting” of any cover yet!

I found the process of transformation – from photos purchased on Dreamstime.com to finished cover – fascinating. Naturally I want to share the journey with you. :D

purchased Dreamstimes photo of Chambord The original photo of the interior of a palace tower depicted one of the stair towers from Chambord, an incredible chateau in the Loire valley of France. The tower was perfect as a rendition of my own Baloron, the castle in which Hunting Wild takes place, except for two things.

One: Baloron is made of reddish stone, not white. And two: the landscape visible through the tower windows should be a dry plain studded with olive trees, not a palace courtyard. Luckily, both were problems I felt confidant I could correct.

 

H Wild red towerMy first step was to cut away the courtyard seen through the openings of the Chambord stair tower. Then I turned the tower stone red. This image shows the arched fill-in I created for the square window at the upper left. In the process of building the cover, the window change came later, when I was trying to fit my title over the art. It was not working well – the title didn’t pop enough where it crossed the open window. I added the arched fill-in to give a better background for the title.

As I worked on the title, I also found I needed a little more tower at the right edge, so I “painted” that in.

I purchased a landscape of olive groves to use for the landscape around Baloron.

olice grove landscape photo purchased from DreamstimeIf I were being absolutely strict about Baloron’s landscape, I would have insisted on a grassy plain, perhaps with a lake in the background. I did look for such an image, but couldn’t find anything suitable. Since the region around Baloron includes olive groves (and cork trees), even though its immediate acreage does not, it seemed reasonable to compromise.

I didn’t use the entire photo that I purchased the rights to, just a portion of it. If you look closely at the right edge, you’ll see that I used the mirror image of a portion of the photo to extend the edge with the textures that my “painting” required. It creates a funny Rorshach-like pattern that isn’t visible in the final cover image, but that would be problematic if it were.

There’s another anomaly in the lower right portion of the photo. I pasted a portion of the tree tops into the area behind the right balustrade to achieve a more pleasing effect than what was there without editing. I find it interesting that the backside of this “tapestry” is so messy. :D

H Wild tower wLandscapeWhen I pasted the landscape into my painting, I initially used the photo in its original state. I needed to see what exactly showed through the tower window and the tower balustrade. I moved the landscape around to get the view through the window right. Then I started copying and pasting different pieces of the photo into the landscape that showed through the balustrade. There was a lot of trial and error.

Nope. Nope! No, not that either!

Eventually I achieved a result that I liked. Yay!

Then I noticed that the landscape looked a little too dark for the composition. The landscape photo was taken out of doors, of course. But when you look out at a landscape from indoors, your eyes are adjusted to the light levels indoors, which are much dimmer than outdoors. This makes the outdoors look brighter in comparison. So I adjusted the brightness of the landscape layer in my cover file. Another “yay!” when I nailed it.

H Wild both girlsNow my setting was ready for my heroine! I purchased all three of the photos at the same time. I’d looked at hundreds, and only made my final choices when I was sure they would work well together. Even then, I did not purchase the right to use the photos until I’d downloaded low-resolution (and watermarked) comp images and put them together in a test cover to make sure they would work.

Each of the three photos cost $15 for the right to use it on my cover. Plus there was a fourth $15 image that I’d need for the back cover. I didn’t want to spend $60 until I was sure my selections would go together the way I envisioned them. I have planned compositions that simply didn’t work. This one, I am happy to report, did.

H Wild tower wGirlFinding a young woman gowned in garb suitable to a medieval setting who also looked like my heroine was hard. I searched and searched and searched. Finally I settled on a photo in which the model was perfect, although her clothing was not. There wouldn’t be much of her gown showing, so the style (which is Victorian) was not critical. But the fuchsia color would simply not work in my “painting.” I would need to change it to green. Also, she really needed to have the ruffles of a chemise (an undergarment) showing at the neckline.

Even more difficult, the position of her arms would not work. I felt confidant I could change fuchsia to green. I even felt confidant I could create the chemise ruffle. I’d copy the neckline of her dress and paste it onto another layer of my file. Then turn it to a creamy white. Then set the translucency to 50% or so. As I’d envisioned, those changes were fairly straight forward. But the arms?

In my mock-up test cover, the arms proved to be no trouble. Only her shoulders were showing. Plus I’d tipped her forward to have her gazing out over the tower balustrade (rather than staring at the tower wall). I simply removed her arms from the image! (Ew! Sounds gory, doesn’t it?) In the final draft, I found I needed more room for my author byline, which meant I needed to show more of her upper torso. I had to do a lot of copy-and-paste “painting” to lenghthen her sleeves. But I was pleased with the result.

Next came the title, author byline, and taglines. I’d say this part was easy – and it was, compared to the work required for my heroine – except you know from my account above that I had a lot of trouble placing the title. I found a gorgeous font for the title: Mephisto And I discovered that the font Aclonica – for the tag lines and back cover copy – complemented Mephisto perfectly.

But I had to reposition the tower, which involved extending it at the top and right side. I had to create an arched fill-in for the square window. And I had to reposition my heroine, which involved lengthening her sleeves. Yikes! But I did it!

Then I decided that I wasn’t satisfied with how the author byline looked in the Mephisto font. It just didn’t look right to me. (You can see that version in my earlier post: Cover Preview: Hunting Wild.) Plus the points of the letters extended so far down that I couldn’t make my trademark byline work – underline connecting the “J” and the “Author of Troll-magic.”

H Wild wTitleI fretted about the situation for several weeks. I created a cover for another book, on which my trademark author byline worked beautifully. I growled to myself about Hunting Wild. Finally, it occurred to me that I could use Aclonica – the font in the taglines – for my byline as well. I couldn’t just type it in, however. Small caps looked weird. Upper/lower case didn’t match my branding. So I customized: upper/lower for most of it, stretched lower case “M” and “N,” and an upper case “Y.”

There! Finally! I liked it! :D

 
 
 

Let’s take a quick look at the finished cover side by side with two of the photos that went into creating it. Do you see why I call it “painting” in Photoshop? The transformation is rather dramatic. At least – I think so. ;)

H Wild triptych

For more cover builds:
Cover Creation: Perilous Chance
Building Star-drake’s Cover
Creating Livli’s Cover

For the principles of cover design:
Cover Design Primer

 

Autumn Flame

Cooler air, dampness rising from cold earth, gray skies.

The season turns, and I turn inward, seeking warmth.

Warmth of the hearth, warmth of the heart, blankets.

I laugh with my family. I simmer soup on the stove. Here in the heart of our home.

Then comes a pale, clear day when the sun and the flaming trees astonish me.

Warmth of beauty draws me out.

Autumn flame 600 px

For more photos:
An Autumn Branch
Blossom

 

Cover Preview: Hunting Wild

I’ve been writing up a storm lately.

I finished a revision draft for Hunting Wild (a North-lands Story) at the end of the summer and sent it off to my first reader. I completed a first draft of Winter Glory (in the Kaunis Clan Saga) at the end of October, and sent that off for beta reading. Now I am hard at work on Caught in Amber, about halfway through.

All the writing has been immensely satisfying, but I continue to work on the publishing tasks that go along with being an indie publisher.

I’m working on a cover for Serpent’s Foe. The story is included in the anthology Quantum Zoo, but I plan to release it solo as well (which means it needs a cover). Some readers prefer their short stories in anthologies and collections. Others like to pick them up one by one, choosing only the exact ones they want. (The single versus the album.) I like to please every variety of reader. :D

I’ve also been working on the cover for Hunting Wild, and that’s what I wanted to show you today. I had a lot of fun making it, and I think the result is pretty cool. One of these weeks I’ll do a “building cover” post to show you what went on behind the scenes. It was pretty involved!

Hunting Wild 300 pxHere’s a little bit about the story.

When a king begs a boon, can you refuse him?

Young Remeya – fosterling and maid-in-waiting to King Xavo’s sister – thinks you cannot.

Her king requests that she retrieve a dread secret from the well on the grassy hillside of his castle’s outer bailey, and she complies.

From the moment her sovereign grips the unwholesome treasure in his hand, the coherence of his mind, his court, and his kingdom start to unravel.

Remeya claims the task of setting wrong to right, but the king’s madness erodes every good thing remaining, even while her own determination brings neither sound strategy nor success.

Only when King Xavo condemns his sister to death does Remeya consider a most unlikely resource.

Coming soon!

For more on cover creation:
Creating Livli’s Cover
Building Star-drake’s Cover
Cover Creation: Perilous Chance

 

Quantum Zoo in Paperback!

I’m always excited when one of my books releases in paperback. But there’s something really special about Quantum Zoo doing so. Probably because it was such a big project, an ambitious project, and involving so many people. Regardless of the reasons…I am totally doing the happy dance!

:: happy dance, oh, happy dance, happy dance, so happy dance ::

Okay, maybe I can calm down now. Here’s the more sedate statement:
Quantum Zoo is now available as a paperback. Just in time for holiday gifts! Yippee!

(Okay, maybe not so calm after all. I can’t be calm with all this excitement fizzing inside me!) Here’s what the book looks like. More about the contents below.

QZ POD photo 600 px

From a haunted old zoo filled with ghosts to a dying starship on its way to a new home – humanity’s final gasp, Quantum Zoo presents a dozen compelling stories featuring a dozen exotic and unusual menageries.

Jack the Ripper arrives for one last murder, while a dinosaur – out of place and out of time – bridges the gap between two poignant lovers in the wonderfully atmospheric England of Hugo-­ and Nebula-­nominated Bridget McKenna.

Quantum Zoo propels you on an enthralling journey through awe and emotion, highs and lows, with tender romance following hair-­raising action.

Join some of the hottest independent science-­fiction and fantasy authors writing today in the fascinating worlds they create from the zoo!

Quantum Zoo as a paperback:
Amazon.com I Amazon DE I Amazon ES I Amazon UK I CreateSpace

PRAISE FOR QUANTUM ZOO

“What a terrific anthology! Quantum Zoo brings together a great collection of stories by both new and seasoned authors. Given only the starting concept of “zoo,” each author was then allowed to explore that theme in any way they chose. The result: a head-spinning collection of amazingly inventive stories ranging from high fantasy to horror to science fiction.” – Michael Major

PRAISE FOR QUANTUM ZOO AUTHORS

Morgan Johnson writes a “fast, fierce and gritty cyberpunk space lovecraftian tale. Seamlessly honed to a wicked point.”

“Definitely a page turner, exciting, funny, and heart-wrenching at the same time. Gelner ‘knocked it out of the park’!”

“Furie has an eye for witty detail that keeps you turning the pages. More, please!”

“A.C. Smyth has written a gripping, captivating page-turner… Sylas owns my heart, and his journey alternately makes me want to laugh, cry, smack him upside his stubborn head, scream, and most of all, keep reading!”

“McKenna’s subtle style and deft handling are practically textbook perfect for short form fiction.”

Stegall “clearly loves two things: historical research and San Francisco. I’m not sure if I learned more about San Francisco or Wyatt Earp, but I had a great time in the process.”

“Batt has done it again. This story is just unfairly funny. I couldn’t stop laughing, which got me plenty of odd looks in public, I’ll tell you…”

“…always fun to discover a new, talented author, and Scott Dyson is my latest find.”

“A brilliant new fantasy concept, intelligent writing… [McCoy's] innate story-telling ability combined to produce a tale that I could not get enough of.”

Ney-Grimm “has an ethereal sort of quality to her writing…it’s almost mystical…absolutely unique, and absolutely engaging.”

“Damn you John Hindmarsh – I am on vacation in Turkey and am waking up late every day because I start reading this book in the evening and can’t put it down until 2:30AM!”

Quantum Zoo continues to be available as an ebook.
Amazon.com I Amazon AU I Amazon CA I Amazon DE I Amazon ES I Amazon UK

QZ spine photo 600 px

 

Parsnip Turnip Purée

rutabagas and parsnips

I’ve tried cooking this combination – parsnips and turnips – two ways. They’re both good, but distinctly different as an eating experience. The broth-cooked method yields a smoother, almost sweeter result. The roasted method delivers a denser, starchier one. I’m going to share them both.

Ingredients

root puree with broth3 large turnips or rutabagas
8 – 10 parsnips
1/4 to 1/2 cup butter
3/4 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
3 cups chicken broth (for broth version; omit for roasted version)

Broth Directions

Pour the chicken broth into a large pot and warm over medium heat.

Scrub the vegetables in clear water. Then peel them and cut into bite-sized chunks. Add the vegetables to the chicken broth. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the veggies are fork tender. Take the pot off the heat and let it cool 10 minutes.

Pour the whole mixture into a food processor. Add the butter and salt and process until smooth and creamy. Serve.

cubed rutabagas and parsnips

Roast Directions

Scrub the vegetables in clear water. Then peel them and cut into bite-sized chunks.

Put the chopped parsnips in one baking dish, the turnips in another.

Melt the butter and drizzle it over both portions of vegetables. Cover both baking dishes and place them in a 350ºF oven.

Bake the turnips for 45 minutes, check them for tenderness, and pull them out of the oven when they are fork tender.

roots pureeBake the parsnips for 90 minutes, check them for tenderness, and pull them out of the oven when they are fork tender.

Place both vegetables, the salt, and more butter into a food processor. Process until smooth. Re-heat the purée and serve.

More recipes:
Chicken Stock
Coconut Salmon
Sauerkraut
Arugula Beef

 

The Steak Un-Recipe

I used tri-tip steaks the last time I cooked this, but really many cuts of meat would work.

steak on a rectangular dish

I don’t usually add salt to a dish before I cook it, figuring that it’s best left up to the individual diner. Eating pan-fried porkchops at a friend’s house changed my mind. She sprinkled salt and pepper onto both sides of the chops before placing them in the pan. And they were delicious! Much better than if I had sprinkled my portion after it was cooked and served. I decided to try her method on another meat dish: steak.

Ingredients

uncooked steakssteak, 8 oz. per person
butter
Celtic sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Grease the broiler pan with a thin layer of olive oil.

Melt the butter, from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup, depending on how much steak you are cooking.

Pre-heat the oven broiler to “Hi Broil.”

Place the steaks on the broiler pan. Pour the melted butter over the steaks, gently and with some precision. Allow the butter to form a thin skimming over the entire surface of the meat. Don’t waste the butter by allowing it to spread on the pan. Keep it on the meat.

Sprinkle salt lightly over the surface of the meat – not too much!

Grind black pepper over the surface of the meat. Again, not too much.

Place the broiler pan under the broiler. I use the second rack position, not the first (the highest).

Broil for 6 minutes, and remove the pan to a heat-resistant surface. Flip the steaks. Pour the rest of the melted butter over this side of the meat. Sprinkle salt and grind black pepper onto them.

steak servedBroil this side of the steaks for 6 minutes.

Remove the broiler pan from the oven and let the meat rest for 5 minutes. Slice it thinly and serve. Yum!

More recipes:
Butternut Soup
Beet Kvass

 

The Cod Un-Recipe

fish skeletonsI like un-recipes, because they’re so easy. Once I know the basics of an un-recipe, I need neither a recipe on paper nor someone to ask in order to make the dish. I just cook!

I like this un-recipe for cod, because it makes the fish taste so yummy.

Pair cod with the butternut carrots below for a particularly delicious combo for dinner.

Ingredients

fillets of cod, 10 to 12 oz. per person
butter

Directions

Grease a glass baking pan with butter. Lay the cod fillets in the dish. You can use either fresh cod or frozen cod. I use frozen, because I don’t have to worry about it going bad in the fridge, if I wait too long to cook it. Also, most frozen fish are frozen right on the boat when they are caught. The fresh fish you buy at the fish counter have been thawed. And then sat in the counter for…who knows how long? The frozen ones are fresher.

Melt 1/4 to 1/2 cup of butter (dependng on how many fillets you need to cover).

Pour the melted butter over the fillets gently, allowing the liquid to spread and cover the entire top surface.

Cover the baking dish. I use aluminum foil, but some of you may have baking dishes with glass covers. That would be much more convenient! I think I’m envious. :D

Place the fish in a preheated 350ºF oven.

Bake thawed fish for 22 minutes. Bake frozen fish for 45 minutes.

codTake the fish out of the oven and test that the fillets are really done. (Be careful opening the cover. Hot steam will puff out.) Really thick fillets might require a bit longer in the oven. A fork should slide right into the fish with no resistance. If there is resistance, add another 5 minutes of baking, re-covering the fish before you put the dish back in the oven.

The cod will have a lovely rich taste. Sublime!

More recipes:
Butternut Carrots
Sautéed Eggplant

 

Butternut Carrots

Butternut SquashesI recently purchased a new cookbook that’s had a unique effect on me.

It’s a great cookbook. The few recipes that I’ve followed to the letter have worked perfectly. This in itself is noteworthy. I don’t know how many cookbooks I’ve purchased, tried, and concluded: the chef didn’t test the recipes. This new one is already unique by delivering up recipes that work and are delicious.

Even more unusually, I’ll browse its pages and think, “That looks really good, but it’s a little more involved than I prefer. What if I take this ingredient and that ingredient and then go in this other direction?” That never happens to me! I’m not the sort who gets food ideas of my own. In fact, my native kitchen IQ is very, very low. But this cookbook sparks ideas even in me.

I’ll undoubtedly blog about the book itself sometime in the coming weeks. But first I want to share one of my latest experiments. It was crazy delicious!

Ingredients

baby carrots1 butternut squash
6 – 8 large carrots
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
sea salt to taste
extra butter to taste

Directions

Scrub the carrots and rinse the squash.

Place the uncut squash in a baking dish and start it baking in a 350°F oven. Set the timer for 90 minutes.

Peel the carrots, cut and discard the tip at the wide end. Cut each carrot in two. Place the carrot chunks in a greased baking dish. Melt the butter and pour it over the carrots. Cover the baking dish and put it in the oven (joining the squash). Depending on how much time has elapsed, the carrots will be done (fork tender, about 50 minutes) a little before the squash.

Remove the carrots from the oven when they are soft and set them aside. When the squash is done (it dents when you press the flesh), take it out of the oven and let it cool.

Cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and discard. (Or wash them and toast them like pumpkin seeds for a snack.) Scoop the squash flesh out of the skin and place the flesh in a food processor. Add the cooked carrot chunks to the food processor. Pour in any butter remaining in the baking dish. Add the sage. Put the lid on the and pulse until the purée is smooth.

Taste the purée and add salt and more butter as you wish. If the squash got very cool before you puréed it, you’ll need to warm it before serving. Otherwise, it’s ready! Yum. I want some right now! ;)

Butternut Carrots

More recipes:
Coconut Salmon
Baked Apples