Good News Tuesday

May. 23rd, 2017 08:29 am[syndicated profile] rachel_neumeier_feed

Posted by Rachel

First up, this:

With 800 offspring, ‘very sexually active’ tortoise saves species from extinction

Fifty years ago, there were 14 members of Chelonoidis hoodensis, in Española, an island of the Galapagos Islands — 12 females and two males. They did not even need the other guy. Since 1976, Diego has fathered more than 800 young — 2 of every 5 hooded tortoises in existence, according to genetic testing.

Good heavens. Well, it’s rather a population bottleneck, but hey, the species can deal with lack of genetic diversity better than extinction, I’m sure.

Similar story, but cuter:

These adorable foxes, once nearly extinct, have made a record-breaking comeback

The Channel Islands, off the coast of Southern California, are the only home of a species of tiny fox that looks like a plush toy. How the island foxes got there from the mainland is up for debate — maybe with Native Americans, maybe on storm debris. But fossils show they’ve lived on the islands for many thousands of years.

Along the way, these descendants of mainland gray foxes evolved into four-pound “island dwarves” whose size was better suited to survival in their isolated habitat with its slim resources. Though they are omnivores the size of a cat, in this environment they were long the top predators. They ate lizards, birds, deer mice and plants.

Imagine a four-pound fox being a top predator. Wow. That’s not the size of a cat despite the statement above. Who the heck has an adult cat that weighs as little as four pounds? Anyway, they’re off the endangered species list. It took a major effort to remove feral pigs from the islands — not surprised — pigs are even worse than cats or goats when introduced to islands. Good for everyone involved in this effort!

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What's causing the unusual ray of white light extending upward from the central horizon? What's causing the unusual ray of white light extending upward from the central horizon?


Books read in 2017

May. 22nd, 2017 03:40 pm[syndicated profile] sharonlee_feed

Posted by Sharon

33. Mouse and Dragon, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller (e)
32. Caszandra, Andrea K. Host (e)
31. Lab Rat One, Andrea K. Host (e)
30. Stray, Andrea K. Host (e)
29. The Cat Who Turned On and Off, Lillian Jackson Braun (read aloud w/Steve)
28. Apprentice in Death, J.D. Robb (e/l)
27. The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern, Lillian Jackson Braun (read aloud w/Steve)
26. The Face in the Frost, John Bellairs (e)
25. Hanged for a Sheep, Frances and Richard Lockridge (e)
24. Xamnesia, Lizzie Harwood (e)
23. Convergence, C. J. Cherryh, (read aloud with Steve)
22. Rock Addiction, Nalini Singh (e)
21. The Stranger in the Woods, Michael Finkel
20. Etched in Bone, Anne Bishop (e)
19. Rider at the Gate, CJ Cherryh (re-read)
18. Small Gods, Terry Pratchett (read aloud w/Steve)
17. Silence Fallen, Patricia Briggs (e)
16. The Cold Eye, Laura Anne Gilman
15. The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, Lillian Jackson Braun (read aloud w/Steve)
14. Memory, Linda Nagata (e)
13.  Bonita Faye, Margaret Moseley (e)
12.  Burn for Me, Ilona Andrews (e)
11. Snuff, Terry Pratchett (read aloud w/Steve)
10. A Taste of Honey, Kai Ashante Wilson (e)
9.  Some Danger Involved, Will Thomas
8.  Thud!, Terry Pratchett (read aloud w/Steve)
7.  White Tiger, Kylie Chan
6.  The Hanging Tree, Ben Aaronovitch
5.  Trading in Danger, Elizabeth Moon (e)
4.  The Wolf in the Attic, Paul Kearney (e)
3.  The Cat Who Saw Red, Lillian Jackson Braun (read aloud w/Steve)
2.  Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse, Jayme Lynn Blaschke (e)
1. Sand of Bone, Blair MacGregor (e)

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Posted by Rachel

So, did you know William Gibson apparently wrote a screenplay for Aliens III?

Without knowing a thing about it, I am sure it was greatly superior to the actual Aliens III movie, which I have done my best to forget in its entirety.

Here’s what this post at a site called vulture.com says:

One of the many problems with Alien 3 was its lack of escalation. The first film in the franchise, Ridley Scott’s Alien, was a claustrophobic monster movie about a small group of underqualified people trying to escape a murderous creature. The sequel, James Cameron’s action masterpiece Aliens, opened up the concept by adding a squad of soldiers, a massive space colony, and — as the title suggested — more than one bad beast. Then 1992’s Alien 3, the directorial debut of a young David Fincher, was … a claustrophobic monster movie about a small group of underqualified people trying to escape a murderous creature.

Yeah, I’d agree that lack of escalation was ONE of Alien III’s problems.

What a pity Gibson’s version didn’t get filmed! Especially given this bit:

“Having been deprived of Ripley, I became aware of how much I’d liked Bishop” — the benevolent android played by Lance Henriksen. But he couldn’t just have Bishop in the spotlight, so he reconciled with the fact that Michael Biehn’s gentle Space Marine Hicks would have to take a more prominent role. All the elements were in place. Gibson sat at his Apple IIc, fired up Microsoft Word (he didn’t have any script-writing software; the biggest challenge of the script was “doing all the tabulation by hand,” hitting keys a million times to center things), and got to work.

I loved Bishop! And I liked Hicks a whole lot too. Can you imagine how much better any movie would have been if it just brought those two characters more front-and-center?

Anyway, read the whole thing if you are interested. And join me in weeping for what might have been.

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Wolf Lundmark Melotte

May. 20th, 2017 04:18 am[syndicated profile] apod_feed

Named for the three astronomers instrumental in its discovery and Named for the three astronomers instrumental in its discovery and


Posted by Rachel

I suspect the NYT Bestseller List is going to get a shove toward irrelevance from this: Introducing Amazon Charts – A Bestseller List for What People are Really Reading and Buying

The above is a link to The Passive Voice Blog.

Here is a link to the actual Amazon Charts page

I will add, I cannot even begin to imagine re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale, which I loathed in college.

Also, very interesting to see how many of the top twenty most-read books this week are . . . Harry Potter books. Wow. Like a quarter of the whole list. I would have assumed those would have faded out of the top twenty most-read category by now, but no. Not one is on the most-sold list, though. I guess that means Amazon is tracking people reading ebooks and listening to audiobooks they bought previously.

I expect this list to have no impact on my personal reading or buying habits, but it’s still interesting to see what ideas Amazon comes up with.

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Posted by Rachel

Here’s a fifteen-book military SF bundle.

Aargh. So hard to turn bundles down even when you are iffy about some of the authors involved AND have a huge TBR pile already. After all, if you come across just three or four titles you really enjoy, you get your money’s worth.

The bundle includes:

Assault on Alpha Base by Dough Beason
Better to Beg Forgiveness by Michael Z Williamson
Comrades in Arms by Kevin J Anderson
Empire’s Rift by Steven Rzasa
March or Die by Andrew and William Keith
One Day on Mars by Travis Taylor
Sniper by Jonathan Brazee
Strong Arm Tactics by Jody Lynn Nye
The Golden Queen by David Farland
Triorion: Awakening by LJ Hatchmeister
Under a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo
Phule’s Company by Robert Asprin

There are also three or so anthologies in the bundle, but of course I’m not super interested in those. One’s novellas rather than short stories, though, so I may take a look at that one.

Of the whole bunch, I have previously read only the last one, Phule’s Company . . . which I liked quite a bit. If you’re familiar with Robert Asprin, then you know he’s pretty good at writing humorous SF and fantasy. Not a very easy thing to pull off, but he does it.

I really have not much cared for other books I’ve tried by Anderson. The others, well, we’ll see. I doubt I’ll find anything here I like nearly as much as Tanya Huff’s Valor series, but that’s a high bar.

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Posted by Rachel

Posting will continue over the next couple weeks, but is likely to be spotty. I’ve scheduled some posts in advance, but I’ll be away from a good internet connection for a good deal of the time from now until June 5th.

If you happen to have a comment caught in moderation, which sometimes happens even with an email address that should go right through, it may take a couple days for me to free it up.

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Posted by Sharon

This is the book about the haunted carousel.  Except the carousel isn’t exactly haunted, and, though I adore carousels, especially old wooden carousels, what I really wanted to write about was a rock.

A rock and the town of Old Orchard Beach, Maine.  That’s where the rock is — Googin Rock (or Googins Rock, according to some), a genuine, actual, historic rock* — Old Orchard Beach.

I adore both town and rock, though I’ll allow both to be an acquired taste, and I said for, oh, five years, maybe, that one day, I’d write about about both.

In 2007, someday arrived.  I wrote the book; sent it to our agent, who sent it ’round, and it was roundly rejected until, in 2009, it found a home with Baen, and was published right around Halloween, 2010.

If you like this taste of the Maine coast, you can continue the story in ebook format, from Baen ebooks and the Usual Suspects.  Carousel Tides is also available in trade paper — from the Usual Suspects — and as an audiobook, from Audible.

Full disclosure:  Carousel Tides is the first book in a trilogy.  Carousel Sun follows and the story concludes in Carousel Seas.

Enjoy!

___________
*5. Oct. 1675 – “Battle of Googins Rocks” Capt. Wincoll of Kittery and 11 militia men marching on the seashore to aid settlers at Pine Point are attacked by 150 Saco Indians. By hiding behind the rocks successfully drive the Indians off without the loss of a single man, even though the tide is rising.  (More info here)

Excerpt from Carousel Tides, © Sharon Lee 2010

ONE

Tuesday, April 18
High Tide 2:29 a.m.
Sunrise 5:54 a.m. EDT

I almost missed the left onto Route 5, which would’ve been embarrassing as hell. Luckily, I recognized the intersection before I was through it, snapping dry-mouthed out of a quarter-doze. Luckily, the Subaru answered quick to the wheel.

Luckily, there wasn’t anybody else fool enough to be driving this particular stretch of Maine highway at this particular ungodly hour of the morning-or-night. If there had, I’d’ve been toast.

Route 5 twisted, snakelike, between parallel rows of dark storefronts and shuttered motels. I pushed myself up straighter in the seat, biting my lip when the pain knifed through my chest, and tried to stay focused on the matter at hand. Not long now. Not long.

Going home, after all this time.

No matter how many words they use to say it, people only ever leave home for two reasons. Money, that’s one. Love—that’s the other.

The reasons people come home again . . . it could be there are more than two. Me, I was worried about my grandmother. Worried enough to risk a homecoming. Trust me—that’s some kind of worried.

Mind you, the crisis or calumny that Bonny Pepperidge—that would be Gran—couldn’t settle with her off hand while cooking breakfast wasn’t something that was likely to roll over and play dead for the likes of me. Still, there was the bothersome fact that the phone had rung empty the last six times I’d called—and it was just like Gran not to bother with an answering machine or to pick herself up a cell—and the downright terrifying reality of the foreclosure notice from Fun Country management.

Perfectly reasonable for Fun Country to contact me; my name’s right there on the lease as co-owner. But I’m only an Archer—a half-Pepperidge, and not the best half, either. It’s the Pepperidges who’ve owned and operated the merry-go-round at Archers Beach since right around the dawn of civilization, Maine time; and Gran who’s had the care and keeping of the thing since well before I’d been born. The size and shape of the disaster she’d allow to threaten the carousel was—almost unimaginable.

Unfortunately, I’ve got a vivid imagination; and Gran’s my last family, so far as I know. Given the combination of circumstances, I could no more have stayed away than flown to the moon.

Not to say that Gran didn’t have a lot of friends in town—as old or older than she was, some of whom didn’t look kindly on me. And of course, there was the family lawyer. But Henry’d been out of town when I called, according to the message on his answering machine, due back some days after Fun Country wanted their money.

Which is why I was here, driving uncertainly down Maine Route 5 at oh-my-God-o’clock in the morning, toward the home I’d forsaken, and trying not to think of what was likely to be waiting for me there.

The headlights picked out a deserted parking lot on the right. I pulled in next to the boarded up ice cream stand, “For Sale” sign hanging at a crazy angle from the storm shutters, slid the car into park, and fingered my cell phone free of its pocket on the outside of my backpack.

I hit speed dial and held the unit to my ear, listening to my grandmother’s phone ringing, ringing, ringing on the other end.

Sighing, I thumbed “end” and sat holding the phone in my hand, staring out into the dark. No doubt about it, I was going to have to go in—back to Archers Beach, which I hadn’t left on the best of terms. That would teach me to burn my bridges.

Or not.

I slid the phone back into its pocket, ratcheted the stick down to drive and pulled back onto 5. Soonest begun, soonest done, as the saying goes. And the devil take the hindermost.

Mist began to creep across the road as I went on. I kept my foot on the gas, and I won’t say I wasn’t holding my breath when the Subaru crossed the town line, which was a waste of perfectly good anxiety—nothing out of the ordinary happened, unless you count an increase of mist.

Breathing carefully, I turned off Route 5 and headed down into town.

The street lamps were out on Archer Avenue, and the Subaru’s headlights illuminated swirls of sea mist pirouetting before boarded-up storefronts. At the bottom of the long hill was the Atlantic Ocean, hidden by a full-fledged fog.

I rolled the window down, shivering in the sudden cold breeze, and took a deep breath of salt air. My eyes watered—which was the salt, or maybe the breeze—and slammed on the brakes as a dark form loped across the street directly in front—but no. It was only the mist, playing games.

I took my foot off the brake and let the car drift.

At the bottom of the hill, where Archer Avenue crosses Grand, I tapped the brakes again. It was five-ten by the clock on the Subaru’s dash; twenty minutes shy of Gran’s usual rising time, though I told myself I no longer expected to find her at home. That last phone call, made just outside the town line, had been pretty definitive. Even Gran isn’t stubborn enough to ignore her phone ringing at four-thirty in the morning.

I should, I thought, go straight on to the house, but habit decided me otherwise. Habit and the fact that I could hear Gran’s voice just as plain as if she sat in the passenger’s seat beside me—“Did you pay your respects to the sea?”

The fog played its game of hide and seek as I felt my way ’round Fountain Circle and pulled the Subaru head first into the center of the five municipal parking spots that face the ocean across a wide stretch of fine, pale sand. In Season there would be signs posted, warning drivers of a ten minute limit on parking, and a strictly enforced tow away policy.

In April, the signs were still in the Public Works garage, and you could park facing the ocean for weeks, and nobody’d notice. Or care, if they did.

I put the Subaru into park, turned off the engine, and sat, taking stock.

My head throbbed and my chest ached—nothing unusual, these days. Not to mention that I was standing on the chancy edge of being ’way too tired, which driving three days non-stop’ll do for you, even if you’re in the pink of health.

Damp breeze danced in the window, chilling my ungloved hands. Faintly, very faintly, I could hear the sound of the surf, slapping and sizzling against the sand.

Walk light on the land,” I whispered to myself, which was something I hadn’t done since I was a kid, new-come to the Beach and afraid of it all. “Walk light on the land and everything’ll be fine.”

Or not. And it wasn’t like I had a choice, anyway. Peril Number One, and counting.

I rolled up the window, popped the door, grabbed my cell, on the vanishingly small chance that I’d get a call; and went down to the water.

The tide was going out. I slogged through shifty dry sand to the firm wet stuff, the fog running cold fingers across my face; a blind thing trying to puzzle out my features. Turning up my collar, I pushed my hands deeper into my pockets, wishing I’d remembered how cold an early morning in April could be, here on the Maine seacoast.

Shivering and out of breath, I stopped at the water’s edge, the toes of my sneakers on the tide line. I shook my hair back out of my eyes, squared my shoulders, and waited for what the sea might bring me.

Wavelets struck the shore and fizzed. The breeze swung ’round, freshened, trying to push the fog back out to sea.

A wave smacked against the sand, sudden as a shotgun blast, and water splashed over my sneakers.

Swearing, I jumped back, and looked down.

Wet sand was all I saw; that, and a little rag of foam.

I bit my lip. What had I expected? It was my good fortune that I’d gotten nothing worse than wet shoes.

I pulled the cell phone out of my pocket and took a look at its face: five-thirty-five. The sea had taken its own sweet time getting back to me. Turning my back on the water, I squinted uphill, barely making out a blue smear that was the Subaru, waiting patiently where I’d put her. To my right, the Archers Beach Municipal Pier hove out of the fog like a ship out of stormy seas; to my left Fun Country sat like a broken dream, sea mist toying with the shrouded rides. The carousel was invisible, gray steel storm gates absorbed by the gray fog.

I lifted my soggy right foot and shook it; did the same for my left—and stood for a moment, weighing the cramped agony in my chest against the long slog back up to the parking lot. Up above the fog, a gull screamed an insult, and somehow that decided it. I turned right and started walking, keeping to the damp sand, but well out of the splash zone. Under the Pier I went, making for the townie side of town, and one particular old house facing the water across the dunes.

“ ’Mornin’.” The voice was deep, soft as the fog itself.

Gasping, I spun, wet sneakers skidding on wet sand. The owner of the voice stepped out of the fog and raised his hands—one empty, one holding a Styrofoam coffee cup—and stopped where he was, letting me get a good look at him.

Tall—’way taller than I am—broad and powerful-looking. His face was high-cheeked and brown; his black hair cropped, except for a thin braid that snaked across his shoulder, falling almost to his waist. His jeans were as soft as salt and weather could make them, and he wore a brown leather jacket open over a green work sweater. He looked to be maybe thirty, thirty-five. I didn’t recognize him—but, then, there wasn’t any reason why I should.

“ ’Morning,” I answered, on the general principle that it’s prudent to be polite to guys who’re bigger than I am. “Pleasant day for a walk.”

He laughed, deep in his chest, and lowered his hands. “Well, it’s not. But I was up anyway, hoping it would clear in time to go out.” He had a sip from his cup, and jerked his head at the fog-shrouded ocean. “No going out in this, and by the time she burns off, the tide’ll have turned.” He gave me nod. “I fish Mary Vois’ boat for her, since the sea took Hum, couple years back.” A pause for another sip from his cup. “Don’t believe I’ve seen you around before. Visiting?”

It was on the tip of my tongue to tell him that my business was none of his—and then I thought better of it, recalling small town manners that were rusty with disuse. He’d given me info, and now he was asking for info in return. Fair enough.

Visiting,” I agreed, trying to reckon how much I needed to put on the table to balance my social debt. I was ’way too tired for that kind of subtle calculation, though, and in a couple seconds I gave it up and just told him what passed for the truth. “I grew up in town, and my grandmother’s still here.”

Don’t say.” He sounded genuinely interested, which of course he would be. Parsing lineage is an ancient Maine pastime. “Who’s your gran, then?”

Should’ve seen that coming. I sighed lightly, but forked over. It wasn’t like it was a state secret, and if I spent more than two hours in town, he’d hear it from somebody else anyway. “Bonny Pepperidge. She runs the carousel.”

Sure she does!” He grinned. “You must be Kate.”

Yep, I’m Kate. And you are?”

Borgan.” He gave the name readily enough, and between it and the information that he fished Mary Vois’ boat, I had enough to pin him down for any townie I met. Just in case I should need to, which I really hoped I wouldn’t.

I could use a cup of coffee,” I said, which was nothing less than the truth. The fog had chilled me straight through while we’d played Twenty Questions, and I was shivering inside my denim jacket. “Anything open this early?”

Borgan held out the Styrofoam cup. “Bob’s.”

There wasn’t any reason why I should’ve been startled, but I was. Exhaustion, maybe. “Bob’s is still there?”

Was ten minutes ago.”

Well, I’m going in the right direction, then.” I cleared my throat and gave him a civil nod. “Morning.”

See you around,” he answered easily, and raised his cup to his lips.

Social obligation discharged, I put my face into the wind and began to walk. Happily, Gran’s house on Dube Street was only three blocks up from the Pier, and Bob’s Diner was conveniently located at the bottom of the street. I’d check the house first, I thought, and glanced over my shoulder.

All I saw behind me was the shadow of the Pier, black inside the fog.

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A Recent Adventure

May. 18th, 2017 06:35 pm[syndicated profile] filkferengi_feed
http://blog.paperbackswap.com/jerrie-and-richard-visit-midway-elementary-to-distribute-books/2017/05/

It was just a few hours after getting home from this fun adventure, that the interstate I'd driven on exploded into flames. Fortunately, no one was hurt, & I understand the interstate's all repaired now. I'm even almost over the shock of spending lots of the day in a skirt. ;)

note: that's the shirt I wear for my Aral Vorkosigan cosplay. It's supposed to be the one the crew of the "General Vorkraft" gave him.

Posted by Rachel

Here’s an interesting article at Slate by Colin Dickey: Red Pens and Invisible Ink

In 2008 I published a short piece in Cabinet magazine on the fate of writer Thomas Browne’s skull, stolen from his coffin 158 years after his death. It caught the attention of an editor at a small press called Unbridled Books, Fred Ramey, who contacted me and asked if I would develop it into what became my first book. He particularly praised the final line of the Cabinet piece, saying that line showed him I was a strong writer. I didn’t have the courage to tell him that the line in question had not been written by me but added by my editor at Cabinet, Sina Najafi.

As you see, this article is all about the hidden work of the editor; it poses the question of whose work is that book, anyway? There’s a long discussion about a particular novel called Insect Dreams, later republished by the author in its pre-edited form as Kafka’s Roach, which includes this bit:

What’s clear is that Estrin, despite his gratitude for a publishing break, never seems to have considered Insect Dreams entirely his. He refers to it as “my book in Fred’s edit,” or “Fred’s Gregor,” the novel that’s been “fredited,” all the while keeping hold of the manuscript he calls “the original Gregor.” Ramey in turn sees Estrin’s decision to publish his original manuscript as, at least in part, a repudiation both of Ramey’s editorial work and the larger question of editing altogether. “At the end of the day,” he worries, “Kafka’s Roach will become and always be the real novel; Insect Dreams will be the artificial, tainted construct.”

Well, of course Ramey sees it as a repudiation of his editorial work. It IS a repudiation of his editorial work.

You know what this reminds me of? The Stand by Stephen King. I read the original (edited, cut by 150,000 words) version long ago, and then when King re-published the uncut version, I read that. I greatly preferred the edited version. I thought basically every one of the 500 or so pages that had been cut should have been cut; I thought the plotlines added back into the book ultimately detracted from the story. Anybody else read both? What did you think?

I had the same basic experience when I finally read the unabridged Count of Monte Cristo. I didn’t notice for the longest time that the edition I fell in love with as a child was abridged; as soon as I realized I rushed out and read the unabridged version. … And it wasn’t as good. I liked some of the original material, but it just wasn’t in general an asset to the overall story.

So, I don’t know. I don’t particularly plan to read either Insect Dreams or Kafka’s Roach, but it wouldn’t surprise me unduly to find that the former is a tighter, smoother, generally superior story.

I will add that the most-edited book of mine is The Mountain of Kept Memory, which as you may recall lost a major protagonist, had Gulien shift from a secondary to a primary character to take over that part of the plot, and had the plot substantially adjusted. And yes, the overall story wound up tighter as a result. Not shorter (it got significantly longer, actually). But tighter. And none of that work is visible to the reader.

Must be odd, being an editor and having your work just vanish from view like that.

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Books read in 2017

May. 17th, 2017 10:44 pm[syndicated profile] sharonlee_feed

Posted by Sharon

32. Caszandra, Andrea K. Host (e)
31. Lab Rat One, Andrea K. Host (e)
30. Stray, Andrea K. Host (e)
29. The Cat Who Turned On and Off, Lillian Jackson Braun (read aloud w/Steve)
28. Apprentice in Death, J.D. Robb (e/l)
27. The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern, Lillian Jackson Braun (read aloud w/Steve)
26. The Face in the Frost, John Bellairs (e)
25. Hanged for a Sheep, Frances and Richard Lockridge (e)
24. Xamnesia, Lizzie Harwood (e)
23. Convergence, C. J. Cherryh, (read aloud with Steve)
22. Rock Addiction, Nalini Singh (e)
21. The Stranger in the Woods, Michael Finkel
20. Etched in Bone, Anne Bishop (e)
19. Rider at the Gate, CJ Cherryh (re-read)
18. Small Gods, Terry Pratchett (read aloud w/Steve)
17. Silence Fallen, Patricia Briggs (e)
16. The Cold Eye, Laura Anne Gilman
15. The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, Lillian Jackson Braun (read aloud w/Steve)
14. Memory, Linda Nagata (e)
13.  Bonita Faye, Margaret Moseley (e)
12.  Burn for Me, Ilona Andrews (e)
11. Snuff, Terry Pratchett (read aloud w/Steve)
10. A Taste of Honey, Kai Ashante Wilson (e)
9.  Some Danger Involved, Will Thomas
8.  Thud!, Terry Pratchett (read aloud w/Steve)
7.  White Tiger, Kylie Chan
6.  The Hanging Tree, Ben Aaronovitch
5.  Trading in Danger, Elizabeth Moon (e)
4.  The Wolf in the Attic, Paul Kearney (e)
3.  The Cat Who Saw Red, Lillian Jackson Braun (read aloud w/Steve)
2.  Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse, Jayme Lynn Blaschke (e)
1. Sand of Bone, Blair MacGregor (e)

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Zebra Cake

May. 17th, 2017 02:13 pm[syndicated profile] rachel_neumeier_feed

Posted by Rachel

Here’s the last of a cake I made for a coworker’s birthday; also for Mother’s Day.

I actually made five layers and wow, was that an undertaking! Fourteen eggs, eight cups of flour . . . actually the recipe is quite simple for such a fancy effect, as long as you just make one cake at a time. If you’re going to double the recipe as I did, I recommend making the first cake layers and then while they’re in the over making the second batch of cake layers, unless your mixing bowls are muuuuch bigger than mine.

I got this recipe from Martha Stewart Living, a magazine which my mother gets. She passes me the issues and I look over the recipes. This one was a keeper. I made it almost-but-not-quite according to the recipe.

Zebra Cake

1 stick unsalted butter, melted
4 C flour
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt (the recipe called for two tsp, but I think that was too much)
3 large eggs, separated, room temp
4 egg whites, room temp
2 1/2 C sugar
2 C whole milk, room temp, divided
1/2 C vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla (the original recipe calls for a Tbsp, which I think is way overboard, but you can certainly try it that way if you like)
1/2 C cocoa powder

Frosting
2/3 C cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder (I left this out)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 C hot water
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 sticks butter (I substituted cream cheese for half the butter), softened
1 1/2 C powdered sugar
8 oz semisweet chocolate chip, melted (the recipe called for 10 oz)
3 Tbsp corn syrup

Line two 9-inch cake pans with circles of parchment. Spray with cooking spray and set aside.

Melt the butter.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Whisk together the egg whites and sugar until light, opaque, and foamy, about two minutes. I used a stand mixer and it didn’t take two minutes to get to this point. Whisk in 1 1/2 C milk, butter, oil, and vanilla. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.

Combine egg yolks, 1/3 C milk, and cocoa. It says to whisk until smooth, but this forms a very thick dough, so I suggest a spoon.

Add 3 1/2 C vanilla batter to the cocoa mixture and whisk until smooth. Here you really can use a whisk.

Whisk the remaining milk into the remaining vanilla batter.

Now, pour 1/4 C of vanilla batter into the center of each cake pan. Then pour 1/4 C of the chocolate batter right in the center. Then pour another 1/4 C vanilla batter right in the center . . . you can see how this is going, right? Just keep pouring alternate batters into the center of the pan. This will form concentric circles of batter right out to the edge. It really will. I suggest using a very generous 1/4 C of batter each time, though, or maybe a scant-ish 1/2 C, because what tends to happen is very narrow stripes indeed around the outside and then much bigger circles toward the middle.

I bet what would actually work best is using a 1/2 C measure for the first four or five times you pour batter in the center of each pan, then switching to a 1/4 C measure. If you try that, I bet you will get more even stripes right through the cake.

It will be beautiful no matter what you do, though.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through if necessary for even baking. Let cool in pans 10 minutes, turn out onto racks, and peel off parchment. Cool completely.

Frosting:

This is a very nice frosting, not too sweet. I liked it a lot and I generally throw the icing away when I get a piece of cake at a party or whatever, because it is usually much too sweet for me.

Whisk together the cocoa, espresso powder if you use that, salt, hot water, and vanilla. Beat butter and cream cheese with powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in melted chocolate. Beat in cocoa mixture and corn syrup.

Frost cake with swirls and swoops of frosting. Chill to store, but bring to room temp before serving.

I found this cake a little heavier than some, which probably comes from using melted butter rather than beating the butter with the sugar for five minutes or so like you normally would in a butter cake. But it was good. I definitely suggest you try it if you want to impress people, because I doubt anybody will have seen a vertically striped cake before!

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