Monday Musings: Weekend Madness, Spring has Sprung, and May the Fourth Be With You

forsythia

We were in Somers, CT for the 30th annual New England Regional Chili Cook Off this weekend. We did not cook. I was scorekeeper and the BaldMan was Chief Judge for one of the cook offs. Yes, I said “one of.” There were two cook offs, both on Saturday. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. It was… interesting. It was also hectic, sometimes confusing, exhausting, and one hell of a lot of work. But it was also a gorgeous day, got a good crowd, and we qualified some really good cooks for the World’s Championship Cook Off. We got to CT on Friday and came home on Sunday. I am still brain dead, and physically tired. Even so, it was a great weekend. Although I have to say, I don’t think I ever want to do a two-fer again!

Spring is in full force here now. The forsythia at the back door is in all its glory, and tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths are popping up everywhere. The weather has warmed up nicely and I have a few things planted in the garden already. The asparagus is starting to get tall enough to cut. The grass is green and the birds are nesting. Yes, I think Spring is finally here!

Today is Star Wars Day. So when you see all the postings of May the Fourth Be With You, you will know why. I am looking forward to the new movie. So far, it seems like it is going to be pretty decent. I know a lot of people didn’t like the last set of films, but I found things to like in all of them. Perfect? No, but what is? And just because something doesn’t fit your headcannon, doesn’t mean it’s bad or wrong. Now, if it doesn’t fit MY headcannon that is another story altogether. (Just kidding. You can do what you want. I’ll just fanfic it to fit my idea of how the story should go. :) )

I think that is about it for this week. My brain is tired, and I can’t think of anything else I need to say. Have a good week! May the Fourth Be With You!

Author Solutions and Friends: The Inside Story

M.A. Kropp:

If you are considering self-publishing, read this. And beware.

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

ASandfriendsweboptAuthor Solutions has forged partnerships with a long list of famous names in publishing – from Simon & Schuster and Hay House to Barnes & Noble and Reader’s Digest.

Recent disclosures in various lawsuits, along with information sent to me by a Penguin Random House source, detail for the very first time exactly how these partnerships work and the damage they are causing.

Since a second suit was filed at the end of March, Author Solutions is now facing two class actions, with the new complaint alleging unjust enrichment and exploitation of seniors on top of the usual claims of fraud and deceptive practices. It also has a wonderfully precise summary of Author Solutions’ operations:

Author Solutions operates more like a telemarketing company whose customer base is the Authors themselves. In other words, unlike a traditional publisher, Author Solutions makes money from its Authors, not for them. It does so…

View original 2,915 more words

Wednesday Wanderings: German Castles, R2-Me2, Useful Hair Clip, and 25 Years of Hubble

R2ME2Dalek

This week’s collection of interesting stuff from around the Interwebs:

I love castles. All sorts of castles. Here’s a look at some of the best castles in Germany:

German Castles

As part of the Star Wars celebration, Sideshow Collectibles asked 90 artists to re-imagine R2-D2 in new ways. Some of these are quite clever:

R2-Me2

Someone needs to get me this:

Multi-tool Hair Clip

Last, a slideshow of some breathtaking images from the Hubble Space Telescope, which is 25 years old now:

Hubble Anniversary Photos

(Photo from Sideshow Collectibles)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/M_A_Kropp_Six_of_One?id=C6N_BAAAQBAJ

Story Time: Five and Daemon, Part 2

pencil

I was supposed to get this up yesterday, I know. It was a long weekend, and yesterday needed to be a bit of a recovery day. But here it is, a day late, but here.

Here is the link to Part 1, in case you missed it or need to re-read:

Five and Daemon, Part One

Five and Daemon

by

M.A. Kropp

Part Two

The beat-up yellow two-door rattled down the main street of Carroll Fork.
“Hick town, for sure.” Cerise slumped back against the torn vinyl seatback. Johnny chuckled as he parked the car in front of Essie’s Eats. The building was painted light blue with bright white trim. Through the large front windows, they could see people sitting at tables. It looked fairly busy, a good sign in a small town restaurant. Johnny turned the car off, and climbed out. Cerise waited on the sidewalk as he came around the car. They walked up to the door of the diner under a navy blue and white striped canopy. Johnny pulled open the door to the jingling of bells.
“Just pick any empty seat, folks.” The woman who spoke from behind the counter smiled through bright red painted lips. “Someone will be right with you. You want coffee?” Johnny nodded and led Cerise to a booth along the front wall near the back of the room. Cerise sat facing the room and began scanning. The plump woman came over with two cream-colored ceramic mugs and a pot of coffee. The name tag on her shirt read “Essie.” She filled the mugs and dropped a handful of creamers on the table. The sound of crashing dishes made all three jump, and caused Essie to splash coffee on the table top. She pulled a towel from the pocket of her bright blue apron and wiped the spill.
“Sorry about that, folks,” Essie said as she tucked the towel back in the pocket and turned toward the counter where the crash occurred.
“Fran! That’s the third time this morning! What has gotten into you?” Essie set the coffee pot down on the counter and bent to pick up the dropped plates of food. “We’ll be out of eggs and plates before lunch if this keeps up.” The waitress who dropped the plates was staring down at the mess on the floor. One hand was twisted in the green scarf around her neck. She looked like she was trying to suppress a fit of giggles.
Johnny tipped his head toward her. Cerise nodded.
“The scarf,” she said. Johnny reached for the sugar canister. Cerise slapped a hand down on his arm.
“I wouldn’t use that, if I were you.” Johnny stopped, glancing up at her.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me?” Johnny said, pulling his hand back. “The sugar?” Cerise grinned.
“Well, the container,” she replied. “The scarf. That hat sitting next to the old guy at the counter. And the god-awful necklace that woman is wearing.” Johnny followed her gaze down the line of tables to an older woman with stereotypical blue hair. Around her neck was a collection of large, brightly-colored shapes: striped, polka-dotted, and solid colors. It clashed with everything she wore. Cerise shook her head.
“Must be some fancy pants demon in that thing. Or it better be, ‘cause if she picked that out because she likes it…” Cerise trailed off with a shake of her head. Johnny glanced down at the coffee in his mug. “Coffee’s fine. So is the mug. But lots of stuff in here isn’t. Something very weird is going on here.”
Johnny picked up his mug and took a sip of the hot coffee. It wasn’t bad. He glanced around the diner. It seemed like a fairly normal place- small two and four seat tables arranged neatly in the larger room at the other end of the diner, a counter along the back wall on this side with swivel stools lined up in front, and tables with banquette benches along the windows across from the counter. A long open pass-through looked into the kitchen behind the counter. . The blonde waitress walked up to their table.
“Morning,” she said. “Sorry about the commotion. I have no idea what’s got into me lately. Had a chance to look at the menus yet?” Johnny looked up at her, but before he could say anything, the green scarf she had tied around her neck began wailing.
“You’ve been made,” Cerise said. Her green eyes were focused on the scarf. “And it ain’t happy to see you, Johnny.”
“Yeah, I gathered that,” Johnny answered. He slid off the bench and stood looking down at the waitress, who was clawing at the shrieking scarf. Her face was pale, and her hands shook as she tried to pull it off. The scarf was flipping back and forth, avoiding her hands. It pulled out to one side, dragging the waitress away from the table and toward the back of the restaurant.
“Cerise!” Johnny followed the struggling form of the waitress.
“Coming!” Cerise jumped from her side of the bench and ran to where Johnny had the waitress cornered in the short hall that held the restrooms. Cerise stopped next to Johnny, and grabbed his hand. She closed her eyes and went still. Johnny’s eyes unfocused for a moment. He blinked once and was seeing the hall through what looked like a distortion lens. Everything in the hall was stretched and slightly out of focus, except the woman standing with her back to the wall at the end of the hall. The shrieking stopped as Johnny started walking toward her. He could see the trail of daemonflash from the scarf around her neck to somewhere behind her. He stopped in front of her.
“Out with you,” he said. The only response he got was a giggle that sounded like it was coming from the wall. He spoke to the waitress.
“Can you take a step to the side, Fran?” He read her name from the tag she wore pinned to her t-shirt. He put a hand gently on her arm and moved her aside. The daemonflash drew out into a thin line as she moved. It ended in the hands of a small demon. It was only two feet tall, with long, thin horns, and gray, leathery skin. Johnny let out a long breath.
“Seriously? An imp? Well, that explains the dropped dishes.” He took one step closer to the little demon. It ignored him, spinning the thread of daemonflash into a thick rope.
“I said, out with you.” The imp didn’t move. Johnny sighed and reached into his pocket. He pulled out the silver yo-yo and snapped it out on its string to knock the imp on the head. It looked up at the blow, and the daemonflash cord faltered. Watching for the opportunity, Cerise darted forward and grabbed the waitress’ hand. She pulled her back down the hall toward the dining room.
“Toss the scarf!” Cerise shouted. The waitress pulled the scarf off and threw it back toward Johnny and the imp.
“Well, now that I’ve got your attention,” Johnny said, tucking the yo-yo back into his pocket. The imp bared short, sharp-looking fangs. Johnny laughed. “Yeah? I could do more damage with my yo-yo. Now, let’s see. Where were we? Oh, yeah. You were on your way out of here, and back under whatever rock you crawled out of.” He pointed his right index finger at the imp.
“Begonia, demon!” The imp raised its head and keened a long, high note. Johnny waved his hand at it, and it disappeared. Johnny spun on his heels, hands stretched out at his sides, and began a showy bow. He stopped short when he realized there was no one else in the hall.
“Hmph. What good is the show without an audience?” He walked back into the dining room, picking up the scarf as he went.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/M_A_Kropp_Six_of_One?id=C6N_BAAAQBAJ

Friday Review: Bread Science: The Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread by Emily Buehler

One Loaf

Bread ScienceBread Science by Emily Buehler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like baking. I like baking far better than I like cooking meals. One of the things I bake with relative frequency is bread. I make decent bread, but there are some things I still struggle with. Working with a more sticky, slack dough is one of those. I’ve read countless articles and online postings about baking bread, but there has still been something missing.

Cue my youngest daughter. My birthday was this month, and she gave me this book as a gift. I started reading it and immediately thought: This is going to be really help. And it has. I tried the basic recipe from the book this week, and while I did over bake the loaves a bit (I’m not used to preheating the oven so high and forgot to turn it down when I put the loaves in), the taste and texture are really good. And I got nice oven spring, something I’d not with some breads before.

The book is a bit textbook-like, and that may put some people off. I will admit that the first couple chapters on the chemistry part did make my head spin a bit. I have never been the science-y, math type. But there was a lot of interesting information on the why and how of what happens with the simple ingredients that bread is made up of. And who knew there was so much research done on bread? I sure didn’t!

The book startst with the basics: ingredients, measuring, and an overview of the process. Then it delves into the science with chemical reactions described and explained, and how different ingredients and reactions affect the dough either positively or negatively. There are chapters on preferments and starters, mixing, fermentation, shaping (really good tips here), proofing and baking, as well as a few recipes and storage information. It has a bibliography that lists the sources for the research cited, an appendix of units and conversions, and a glossary of terms.

This is not a cookbook, as such. It is more of a class in bread making. Some of it is a bit hard to get through, especially if chemistry isn’t your strong point, but I picked up some valuable information anyway. If you want to improve your bread making, and learn a bit more in depth about the whole process, this book is quite an interesting read.

View all my reviews

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/M_A_Kropp_Six_of_One?id=C6N_BAAAQBAJ

Wednesday Wanderings: Pool and Dominoes, Gaiman on Kindness, Beauty at a Border Crossing, and Sunset Ice Cave

ice-cave-sunset_89665_990x742

I wouldn’t actually call this a “trick shot,” but it is pretty impressive. Must have taken a while to figure it all out and set up. The video quality is not good, but you can see what’s happening:

Pool and Dominoes

More advice from the wise Neil Gaiman’s tumblr, this time on being kind:

Kindness

This is the most amazing border crossing I’ve ever seen. It’s in Ecuador:

Border Crossing

And this National Geographic Photo of the Day is just stunning:

Sun and Ice

(Photo from National Geographic)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/M_A_Kropp_Six_of_One?id=C6N_BAAAQBAJ

Monday Musings: Yard Work, Garden Plans, and Dog Walking

Dog Walk 4-19

We got a good bit of yard work done on Saturday. It was a nice day, although a bit breezy. The BaldMan took the snowblower off the lawn tractor (No More Snow!). He didn’t put the mower deck on. It needs a good cleaning and the blades need sharpening. The grass is barely growing yet, so no need for it immediately. Then, he cut down a lot of the overhanging branches in the chicken’s run. We had a large branch that didn’t completely break off a tree out there and there were a lot of the smaller branches overhanging the pen. He was going to try to saw down the whole thing, but the tree saw needed a new blade, too. A lot got cleaned up, though. And then he hitched the trailer to the tractor and picked up the downed branches in the yard.

I did some raking, and cleaned the chickens waterers and treat bowls. I also took the heater out from under the in-coop waterer. Next will be to get a bale of shavings and clean out the coop completely. The stuff I shovel out will go out back to compost for a year, and then it will go in the garden.

We finished that stuff up and went to get the saw blade and I picked up the seeds for the garden this year. I got it planned out on Sunday. Now to get things going. I do have carrots and peas planted already. We are doing most of the usual stuff, but are going to try growing some broccoli rabe this year. And I am planting more asparagus. I’ve lost a few plants to the cold, and just want to turn a whole raised bed into asparagus.

Sunday morning, we took Lambeau to a local park for an organized dog walk. It was set up by the kennel we use to board him so that dogs and people could get some practice in with polite walking. That is one thing he really needs. He’s good here at home, and he’s fine on our walks around the neighborhood, but it’s quiet and there aren’t a lot of distraction. Get him out with a lot of other dogs and people, and he gets really overexcited and it is hard to get him to focus. He is good with other dogs. He just wants to play all the time with all of them. He will even ignore all the really good treats. He was a little devil for a while- pulling, whining, jumping, and just being a Lambutt. He started to settle down a bit eventually, although he never got to the truly calm stage. These walks are going to be weekly, so we are planning on getting him to as many as we can. It will do him good, and he needs practice at calm behavior when other dogs are around.

We stopped at Market Basket after to pick up a few things, and I took him out of the car there to get a bit more practice in. He was good. He was also tired, and there were no other dogs. Just have to keep working with him.

Today is rainy, so no outside work, I guess. There is rain predicted for most of the week. I hope it blows off. I really want to get some of the harder work done before it starts getting too hot. I have a list of things I want to do, and rainy days don’t fit on it!

We have achieved “ice out” on my little pond. Yay! Now I need to get it cleaned out and put the filter back on it. Then I can look at some water plants.

Doing ALL the Spring chores!

Protected: Short Sci-Fi: Cargo

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Monday Musings: Warm Weather, Yucky Dog Story, Birthday, and Bread Baking

Bread

Oh, it is so beautiful on this Sunday afternoon! It is sunny and warm, and there is very little snow out there. I think we may see “ice out” on my little pond in a week or so. I even have the door and a few windows open. It is about time!!

We have a new “Dogs are Yucky” story this week. If you follow my Facebook page, you can skip this. You’ve heard this one. Lambeau and I were out for a walk the other day. I saw some crows on the side of the road ahead of us, but didn’t think much of it. People throw garbage out of cars on that road all the time. We got to the spot and there was a heron flying overhead, and I was watching him. I felt a few short, sharp tugs on the leash. Looked down and there is a chipmunk tail hanging out of the dog’s mouth. Yes, still attached to the rest of the chipmunk. Yes, a quite dead chipmunk. I got it away from him, although he did not want to give it up. Yes, he found it, but I declared dead chipmunks to be “not food.” Besides, I think the crows found it first.

On a better doggy note, he is quite happy that I was able to fix the back part of the fence and that the gate parts can now be closed. It’s just plastic temporary fencing and gets pulled down by snow every year. But now, I can close up the yard, and let him off his leash to run. He took full advantage of that! Hooray for nice weather!

My youngest daughter gave me a cool book for my birthday last week. It is called Bread Science: The Chemistry and Craft of Making Bread. It is very interesting. The first part goes into the chemical reactions that occur, and some of the research into how and why bread does what it does. I have to admit, I kind of skimmed some of that. Chemistry was never my best trick in school and still isn’t. I had no idea there was so much bread research going on! And then it talks about starters, and yeast, and how to make all the chemistry stuff work for you at home. There are chapters on mixing, fermenting, shaping, proofing, baking, plus recipes and tips for storing and making your oven better for bread baking. I love baking bread, so this was a perfect gift! I made a couple loaves of a brioche style bread at the end of the week and used a couple hints I’ve already picked up from it. They are the picture for this post. Yummy!

I had a lovely birthday. I am not one to worry about age, so it doesn’t bother me when the birthday rolls around. Not much I can do about it, and I’m not all that fond of the alternative, so just roll with it. The BaldMan made shrimp cakes for me for dinner. They were very good. He’d never made shrimp cakes before, so it was a nice change from the usual stuff you do with shrimp.

Now, to hope the weather holds for the week, so I can get some outdoor work done!

Friday Review: The Colour of Magic (Discworld #1) by Terry Pratchett

The Color of Magic (Discworld, #1; Rincewind #1)The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As most fans of fantasy know, the world lost the incredible Sir Terry Pratchett recently. I decided to re-read The Colour of Magic (it’s greenish-purple, by the way) as a little tribute to Sir Terry. Love his stuff or not, he was a big influence on the fantasy genre in general, and many authors, as well.

The book opens with Twoflower, a tourist, and Rincewind, the failed mage, escaping from a city in flames. They are followed by Twoflowers’ Luggage, a sentient trunk with multiple legs. From there, we roll back in time to the series of events that led to the city of Ankh-Morpork burning.

Is this the best of Sir Terry’s Discworld books? No. It is the first, and like many first books, it has its flaws. The Discworld stories got better as they went on. Is it worth reading? Yes, definitely. A lot of the book is set-up: we learn about the Discworld, the disc-shaped universe that rides on the back of four elephants and a turtle (yes, that’s a direct nod to Hindu and other mythologies), there is background on the magic of the Disc, and a lot of general world-building. In spite of all that, it is still a loopy romp that pokes fun at pretty much every fantasy trope you could name. Pratchett’s sense of humor is shrewd and subtle. This is not a broad comedy, although Rincewind does provide his share of pratfalls. While there are belly laughs, there are far more sly chuckles. It is a readable, enjoyable introduction to Pratchett and his wonderful Discworld.

View all my reviews

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Six of One

Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.

Download a free sample or purchase in your favorite ebook format at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/354855

Also available at:

Amazon: (Now also in paperback)

http://amzn.to/1brIXLN

 Apple iTunes Bookstore

 Barnes and Noble:

http://bit.ly/17DmCXz

Kobo:

http://bit.ly/16ZWZXf

Google Play:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/M_A_Kropp_Six_of_One?id=C6N_BAAAQBAJ

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 131 other followers