A New Place to Find Brass Gears, Having Your Book Read to You, and a classic Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipe

I found a where you can get a handful of brass gears that are bigger than wrist watch gears. The timers that control old washing machines and clothes dryers used mechanical timers. Those timers used brass gears. If you can find a shade tree repair guy that fixes old washing machines and clothes dryers you might be able to bum a couple of timers off him. The machines will be fifteen or more years old and may not be worth repairing.

Reading your book out loud is good advice. I do it, but I have a better way. I let the computer read it to me. That way I can concentrate on the sound and flow of the words.

The computer never gets tired of reading. I get hoarse after reading out load for a couple of hours.

I have been using Naturalreaders, but I am using TTSReader more and more. All text to speech programs will not know all the words you use or get tense right (like read and past tense read (red)). It is a little disconcerting when the program sounds the word out. They are getting better, but it’s going to take time. Give these programs a try.

I am not affiliated with the companies that make or distribute these programs. I had problems with the amazon and google text to speech programs and found these program better for my use. I use the free version, which means I break up my book or chapters in to small pieces and feed them into the program. I use the pause triangle at the top of the program to stop the speech and make notes in a hard copy of the manuscript that the program is reading. I have found that TTSReader will back up to where the cursor is and re-read the part it has already read. Very handy.

These programs are not ready to produce an audio book, but that day is not far off.

Self promoting plug to buy my book “The Daemon Boat”.

Classic Thanksgiving side, Fruit salad.

Fruit Salad, from an old family recipe from the 1950s

1 crisp sweet apple
1 orange
1 can pineapple cold
1/2 cup English walnuts
1/2 cup coconut
1 banana reserved


Add pineapple to medium bowl.
Peel and cube orange, add to bowl.
Peel, core, cube apple. Add to bowl. Mix till apple pieces are covered with juice. That will prevent browning of the apple pieces.
Toasting walnuts is optional. Chop walnuts into large pieces. Add to bowl.
Add coconut to bowl.
Mix well. Taste and add sugar and a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon if desired.
Just before serving peel banana and add to individual serving bowls, if desired. There were people in my family that were allergic to bananas.
Without bananas the salad will store, covered, in refrigerator for days. It’s good for breakfast with coffee and a piece of pecan pie.

Makes enough for two.
You can add sliced grapes, raisins, tangerines. Do not add great fruit, it is too bitter and will react with heart medicines.
Do not add celery. Celery is not a fruit. Do not add mayonnaise, that’s not a fruit either and some people are allergic to eggs. Do not add pepper, or cream or other non-fruit items.

Stay strong, write on, and read your book, out loud.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Doing Things Differently and A Well Done Turkey Thigh

I watched Mercury move across the face of the sun last week. Yes, it’s a big deal. It won’t happen for another decade.

I got up early that morning and it was cloudy. The event only lasts for a couple of hours. I got on the computer and found a weather site that’s tied into the Los Angeles weather radar. It was clouds for as far as the radar could see. I had the choice of driving up to Santa Barbara or down past Malibu. I could go farther east on the 10 freeway hoping to find clear skies.
The problem is the skies could still be filled with clouds, the weather radar can not see that far.

I got out my homemade solar telescope out. It’s made out of old and new parts.
It’s a mere three inch scope, but the sun is close so it does the job. It has a glass solar filter not one of the cheap plastic things.
The sun started to peek through a crack in the cloud cover. Now the fun began. Looking at the sun is a lot different that looking at the stars. One one thing it’s light out. Stray light from the ground, and any object around you interferes with looking into the eye piece. Also with the solar filter on it’s dark looking through the telescope. At night when looking through the telescope you can see stars or at least the moon. With a solar telescope, it has to be as bright as the sun or you don’t see anything.
Mercury is small, and you need a telescope to see it during the day.
I don’t have a solar filter handy for the finder scope, so I got out my solar finder. The solar finder sits on top of the telescope’s barrel and the pin hole in front of the finder shines a dot of light on the back of the finder. The cloud cover made the sun dim in the solar finder. It also diffused the light. The diffuse light made aiming the telescope hard.

You can’t look down the top of the telescope barrel and sight on the sun like you can for the moon. Looking at the sun is bad for your eyes.
After a lot of fiddling the sun slipped into a clear gap in the cloud cover and I got the scope on the sun. I had to switch to a better eye piece because of the water in the air. Even when it looked like the sun was in the clear I could see clouds moving across the face of the sun through the solar filter.
After much adjusting I got Mercury into focus.

What does this have to do with writing Steampunk? Well take the hero that come to save the day. What if he’s a steam engineer and he needs to get a steam car going. He knows the engines on ships and the big stationary engine used on farms. But those are high pressure boilers. He needs to repair a flash boiler of a car to escape and it’s so different from the big ship boilers.

You may be an expert in your field, but you will not know all the little details of that field.

And now for this weeks recipe

Turkey and Bacon


One stick of butter, half softened and half melted
1 ½ pounds of turkey thigh, skin-on
One package turkey bacon, you only need enough to cover thigh


Brine thigh if you want. Start the night before.
Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.
Rinse thigh.
Pat dry.
Place thigh in shallow pan.
Lift skin and place half of softened butter on thigh under skin.
Coat skin with soften or melted butter.
Place thigh in over for 30 minutes.
Remove thigh and cover with turkey bacon. Will keep skin from getting to done.
Return to oven.
Cook for another 30 minutes or until quick reading thermometer reads 155 degrees F.
Cool for 15 minutes.
Carve and serve.

Stray strong, write on and don’t eat to much at one time.
Professor Hyram Voltage

Cooking In Steampunk Times and Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chip Cookies

Readers complain that I have too much eating going on in my stories.
Come on, people got to eat. Have you ever noticed how a hero will go for days without food, then run a mile in under two minutes, have a fist fight with the villain and win.

I don’t think that is realistic. Besides having the characters at a meal gives me a chance to shove in a little exposition. OK, a whole lot of exposition. A meal would force characters to talk about what’s on their mind.

All meals would not be at a restaurant. Sometimes it would be at a bar. Many single people lived in a boarding house where meals were served. Your lunch was in a pail and was prepared by the boarding house owner. It took time to fix a meal. It took a lot of money to eat in a restaurant.

A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou, was a big thing. No cooking required. And it was more likely a bottle of beer. It was warm beer in the days before refrigeration.

Having the characters have a meal is also a break from the constant action and tension. A nice break form being chased or almost killed.

A fest or a meal during the holidays was something that required planning. There were goose clubs in England where you paid someone weekly or monthly to raise geese. Then just (and I mean a day or two before the fest) you went and got your goose. The rest of the meal had to be planned out. Canned goods were more expensive than fresh and you could only get what was in season. This wasn’t only the cooks problem, it was everyone’s problem.

So have your characters eat, drink and be merry. Then have them shoot their way out of a hostage situation.

Stay strong, write on, and don’t forget to feed your characters.
Professor Hyram Voltage.

In an effort to get you to buy my book, here is a holiday cookie recipe.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies:


3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 bag semi sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil or grease two cookie sheets or line cookies
 sheets with parchment paper.
In medium bowl lined with large plastic bag add; pumpkin spice,
 cinnamon, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and flour.
Close bag and use hand to squeeze bag to mix ingredients.
Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer.
Beat in egg and extract. 
Add, slowly, flour mix. 
Remove mixer beaters and, by hand, stir in chocolate chips.
Using tablespoon take one scoop at a time of dough and drop onto
cookie sheets.
Bake for 9-10 minutes. Take them out when bottoms start to turn golden.
They’ll finish cooking as they cool. If they get too golden before
you remove them, they won’t be fluffy and soft.
Cool 5 minutes before removing from cookie sheets.
Place cookies on a wire rack to cool completely.
 Store at room temperature loosely covered.

You need conflict for your story. You Need Big Conflict.

Don’t think war, think revolution. Revolution pits brother against brother and father against son. Even mother against father. That’s conflict.

The east coast is sinking. I recently saw an article where Boston is having troubles with rising sea levels. They have signs on one street where at high tide the street is flooded. Of course someone is going to have to pay to fix it and the ones that live there don’t want to pay for it.

Living on the west coast, in California, I feel left out. You never see anything about the problems that rising sea levels will cause in California. Near me is a marina where the houses have a boat dock for a back yard. It will not take much of a sea level rise to flood those houses. Of course California is not close to the nation’s capital where all the political action is. It’s like California doesn’t count. The people in Boston had better be concerned. California has the third longest coastline in the U. S. And California has some expensive coastline.

What’s that got to do with writing Steampunk?

Political visibility was worst in the steampunk era. There was only a single railway line connecting the east and the west coast. Telegrams were very expensive. Letters could take weeks to get from one coast to the other. The west coast could fall off into the ocean for all Washington DC could care.

What we need is a steampunk story where California and several neighboring states/territories succeed from the union. Why? What if they were being heavily taxed and not getting anything for the money that’s being taken. Don’t forget that the civil war started income tax. It was not popular, but effected the very rich. What if the politicians got greedy? What if they figured that since California had gold then Californian’s should pay more? The money is being used to pay down the debt that was run up during the civil war and of course to pay for other east coast things (like graft and corruption). Arizona would not succeed, but that’s another story or subplot. Air ships cannot haul a lot of people. With only one railway line through the rocky mountains it would be easy to cut off the military from getting to California. It’s takes months for a ship to get from the east coast to the west coast.

Stop the trains at the top of the Rocky Mountains in the winter and the troops could freeze. Think Donner Pass. All you have to do is blow up the tracks in front of the train and behind the train. Now you have a couple of thousand troops without enough food or water, that’s conflict or a sub plot. The locals in the rocky mountains might turn on the troops if the troops took their food. Many people in the mountains, in the 1800s, were living hand to mouth. Take out a couple of bridges and the troops would be stranded. The train tracks go over some deep gorges. A big airship could haul maybe a hundred troops and some equipment so hauling an invasion force would not work. But Californians were armed and knew how to use their guns. Once the troops get to California they could not just live off the land in California during the winter.

Ad, Wanted Beta Readers. I’ll read your book if you’ll read mine.

If an effort to sell my book here is this week’s recipe.

Bacon pancakes

Ingredients, enough to make about 12 Pancakes:
8 oz bacon
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs yolks, beaten
2 large egg whites
1/2 stick of melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/3 cups milk (use buttermilk if you plan ahead)
Serve with warm maple syrup and soft butter.

Cook bacon.
Drain and cool bacon.
Separate the yolk from the egg whites.
Place dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Add milk and beaten egg yolk. Mix a little. Add egg white and fold in. Do not mix heavily. Leave lumps (adding egg white last and genteelly folding them in makes the pancakes fluffy).
Break bacon into pieces and add to batter

Heat skillet, spoon batter into hot pan. Water will dance on pan if it is hot enough.
Serve and enjoy.

Stay strong, write on, and think revolution.
Professor Hyram Voltage