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

Where did all the Goth go? Halloween Cupcakes.

I attended the Steampunk Festival in Oxnard this weekend. There I met a gentleman from Germany. During our conversation he asked “Where did all the Goths go”?

Good question. A few short years ago there were quite a number of young people who dressed and acted in a Goth manner. Now you can’t find them even at science fiction conventions.

The guy from Germany felt that they may have gone into Steampunk. Yes, there are many who wear dark clothes in steampunk, but I don’t think they identify as Goth. There’s plenty of dark sides and stories in steampunk. Even some Goth themed characters. But the heroes are not Goth.

Doing a little research I find two things. One young people are not getting into Goth so the number of Goths is shrinking. And two cell phones are killing the Goth movement and social interaction.

Looking at the Goth movement, it peaked in 1994. That the time the cell phone wave hit. Cell phones have gone up and the Goth movement have gone down.

Milliennials say they are looking for experiences. But if you ask them, they will tell you that they sit at home or keep their face in their cell phone. They don’t go to; bars, clubs or conventions. They only go out for experiences (special occasions). They also don’t go out because going out cost; money, places are too crowded and don’t give you space, most places have bad service (a cell phone is cheap and you are paying for it now, it gives you what you want now, no waiting, no crowds), and places are filled people that are jerks (cell phones have a jerk be-gone button).

People use to go to bars to find dates. It’s so much easier now with a cell phone and a computer dating site.

People use to go to bars or clubs to find new music. Cell phones can get you that with no cover charge, no crowds, no having to interact with people. And if you do it right the cell phone can get you the music for free.

One person was blaming global warming for the down fall of the Goth movement. It’s hard to wear black clothes and a leather jacket when the temperature keeps hitting new highs.

What happened to Goths? My guess is those that would be or were Goths are sitting home staring at their cell phones.

There’s a science fiction story here waiting to be written. A world full of cell phone zombies that can be exploited, turned into a mindless army by the government or an evil genus.

Remember that in China some minorities are required to carry their cell phones at all times so the government knows where they are.

Halloween is on a work day this year. There’s no time to make up a special, from scratch, recipe.

Halloween Cupcakes.
ingredients
One box of chocolate brownie mix
One teaspoon pumpkin spice
One teaspoon instant espresso
Cupcake paper liners
A can of cake frosting. Some sprinkles

directions
Follow directions on the box, but after placing dry ingredients in bowl sprinkle the pumpkin spice and espresso mix over the dry ingredients so you don’t get a lump of spice in one of the cup cakes, and done of the spice in the other cupcakes.

What makes it Halloween is the presentation. Some frosting, sprinkles, chocolate chips for eyes. Use a tooth pick to paint a food color mouth. Use pieces of well done bacon for bat wings.

Stay strong, write on, and eat.
Professor Hyram Voltage

Bacon doughnut holes.

He beat me to it.
Bacon doughnut holes.

see https://foodwishes.blogspot.com/2015/06/bacon-and-egg-doughnuts-perfect-for.html
From the foodwishs site

See his web site. This recipe is a little tricky to make. So many times it looks like it’s a failure, but it isn’t.

Ingredients for 8 to 10 small Bacon and Egg Doughnuts:
(this is a half a recipe, so I would highly recommend doubling everything)
6 strips bacon, sliced, browned, cooled, and chopped (save some for the tops)
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp cold water
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/8 tsp salt
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of fresh nutmeg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
vegetable oil for deep frying
maple syrup to garnish

  • Fry at 350 F. for about 7 minutes, turning often, until puffed and well-browned
  • If doing in batches, hold in a warm oven

Nothing says breakfast like Bacon
Professor Hyram Voltage

Taking photographs at a Convention, plus a recipe; Bacon Quesadillas.

I’m an amateur photographer and technology has let me down. I like to take photographs at science fiction and steampunk conventions. I take a lot pictures, close to 400 photographs at the last convention. See the previous three blogs for a sample of the ones that turned out good. Yes, just like in writing they don’t all turn out good. But in photography you don’t get to do a rewrite, maybe a little editing in the developer program.

I don’t like to use a flash. It annoys the people at panels and a flash in the face distresses some people. But I have no choice.You may not realize how much better the human eye is compared to a camera. Even new expensive cameras. Indoors, at the convention, it may look brightly lit, but it’s dark to the camera.

My indoor camera setting are 1/60 of a second for the shutter, f 5.6 for the aperture, and an ISO of 3200. What’s that mean. 1/60 of a second means the person I’m photographing can’t move and I have to hold the camera very steady. An aperture of f 5.6 means I should buy a better lens because f 5.6 is the biggest the lens I have will open up (f 5.6 is how much light the lens let get to the camera sensor, and it’s not much). And a senor speed of ISO 3200 means the pictures are grainy (they look blurry and noisy if you blow them up). For posting on the web the pictures are OK. But if you want a 5 by 7 print it’s a lot of work to get rid of the grain and you can’t get rid of all of it.

Outside, in the day time, the camera takes great photographs.

So, if you see me using a flash, forgive me. I’m driven to get a decent photographs. I try to keep the flash usage down and use it only before and after the presentation, but there are times I have to get that special shot.

I have been using the little built in flash on the camera. The professionals use the big honking flashes mounted above the camera. Watch out world, I got my big flash out and I’m going to use it. I missed several shots, at the last convention, because the pictures had too much grain in them. Or it could have been camera shake. Using the big flash will fix that. I may even get a new lens. It will cost over thousand dollars. You have to really love your hobby to spend that kind of money. The lens will cost more than the camera, the two lens that came with the camera, the flash and a bunch of accessory that I got when I bought the camera.

Stay strong, write on, and smile, you always look better when you smile. Have you ever noticed that when you photograph three people at once, one of them always blinks (you end up with a photo with one person’s eyes closed)?
Professor Hyram Voltage

Nothing says breakfast better than bacon.

Bacon Quesadillas

Ingredients
2 slices turkey bacon
1/4 tsp. powered garlic or 1/2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 onion, diced (can use one green onion)
1 tbsp. Taco Seasoning
2 tbsp. tomato paste
8 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 avocados, pitted and diced
2 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 large flour tortilla or small flour tortilla or corn tortilla if your out of flour tortillas
8 oz. or half a cup or a small hand full of shredded cheese white, yellow, Monterey Jack, Cheddar, or Mexican
1 lime, cut into wedges

Directions

In a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, cook bacon with garlic and onion until softened, 2 to 4 minutes. Add taco seasoning, tomato paste, 1 tbsp water; cook on medium-low for 5 minutes. Set aside.
Warm a large non-stick pan over medium heat with 1 teaspoon oil. Place a flour tortilla in the pan and sprinkle half with cheese, beef mixture and more cheese. Fold tortilla over and lightly toast on both sides until cheese is melted.
Cut quesadillas into wedges and serve with lime wedges and sour cream.

Taco Seasoning, home made,
1/2 tsp. ground chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground paprika or smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Gaslight Expo 2019, more photographs II

Well I haven’t blown up the web site yet with all the photos.

Who says that elephants are the only things that fly.

Gaslight Expo 2019, more photographs

After squeezing every second out of the last four days to work on the photographs I took at the Expo here is the second batch.

Gaslight Steampunk Expo 2019 pictures

I had a blast. Here are a couple of pictures I took. More pictures will be added as I get them developed in the digital darkroom.

Guest of honor in one of her many turbans
Got the Con Crud

The Introvert and Word Count. Plus, Bacon Foo Young.

As an introvert I try to get the point across in as few words as possible. That doesn’t do much for my word count.

My third book is getting close to 70,000 words. That is amazing.
My first book I had to struggle, slave, and take long cuts to make it to 50,000 words. I needed 50,000 words to call it a novel. I ignored repeats, excessive descriptions and other bad writing tropes to get it to 50K words. And if you have ever seen my writing you know I will repeat words, groups of words and the character’s name over and over again, often in the same sentence. It comes naturally to me.

During the latest re-edit of the third book I am cutting words, redundancies left and right. I’m also cutting cliches, but I don’t think I’m making much of a dent in them. Still the word count is going up. I must be doing something right.

They tell writers, again and again, that you have to kill your darlings. Do you know what that does to my word count? Doing that could turn my novel into a short story. And it hurts, and not just my word count. It’s hurts so bad. I don’t know where the darlings come from, but they sound so good and the words that replace them sound so flat. I want my darlings. But I warn you, they bred, like crickets, and sound about as bad.

Recipe of the week
Bacon Egg Foo Young
What means breakfast more than bacon. Egg Foo Young is eaten for breakfast in China. This fusion recipe makes for a great omelet or burrito.

Ingredients

2 eggs
1/2 Pound bean sprouts (a small hand full) course chopped
1 or 2 green onions chopped
1/2 cup of bell pepper (or 1/4 of bell pepper) chopped
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
2 strips of turkey bacon chopped

Directions:

  1. Add eggs to bowl, beat. Add bean sprouts, green onions, bell pepper, and soy sauce to bowl. Mix well.
  2. In a skillet cook bacon a little. Add egg mixture. Cook till eggs brown on bottom and fill over. Cook till done.

You can add to mixture, before cooking;
Brown Onions
Mushrooms
Garlic
Ginger
Sesame oil

Stay strong, write on, and have a good breakfast. Your writing depends on it.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Home made chocolate chip cookies are not that unhealthy. They are not loaded with extra chemicals. But they do contain lots of sugar and fat (butter). But that’s what makes them taste so good.

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
Professor Voltage style

Ingredients

1 cup butter (2 sticks) softened*
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract (plus a little bit)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups oats (regular oats (rolled) not instant)
1 cup nuts (Walnuts or Pecans)
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Tools needed;

Medium bowl
Electric mixer with large bowl
Measuring spoons set
Measuring cups; 1 and 1/2 cup sizes
Spatula with wooden handle*****
3 Cookie sheets (make sure they fit in oven)
Timer
Gallon size plastic food bags
Dry Measuring cups

Directions;

Pre-soften* the butter, take the sticks out of the ice box at least an hour before starting. You can let the butter sit on the table over night.**
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. (Before turning oven on check inside of oven for baked potato or other odds and ends from last night. Check oven temperature, the knob marking are often way off.)
Line a medium bowl with a one gallon plastic food bag.

Place flour******, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in bag. Close and secure top of bag leaving large air space at top of bag. Message and shake bag to mix ingredients. Set bag aside. Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer in large mixing bowl. That’s cook speak for beating the butter until air is mixed in and then slowly adding the sugar.

Add eggs one at a time without getting any egg shells in the mix.

Add vanilla; beat well.

Add flour mixture, slowly and gently or flour will be billowing everywhere**** and mix well. Remove mixing bowl from electric mixer.

Using spatula stir in oats, nuts, and chocolate chips; mix until there are nuts and chips in very spoon full.

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto un-greased cookie sheet. That means scoop up a spoon full and turn the spoon over and dough falls onto the cookie sheet, most of the time the stuff acts like it is part super glue. Use spatula to scrape dough off spoon and try dipping teaspoon in cold water after each drop to keep dough from sticking.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes, measured with timer not smoke alarm, until golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet then remove cookies to paper plate.
Makes about 4 dozen.

  • * Soften means late butter warm up till a finger pressed in middle of bar will easily leave a dent.
    **Long distance backpackers carry butter for days without refrigeration.
    ***Old cook book term. Butter will turn a lighter color and be fluffy. 3 to 5 minutes in mixer.
    ****pour carefully, making flour angels on the kitchen floor is not cool. If added to quickly the electric mixer will blow flour all over kitchen.
    *****banging metal handle of spatula to knock stuff off on the rim of a glass bowl will break the bowl.
    ******Use dry measuring cup and using the flat back of butter knife strike off (run the knife across the top of the cup scraping the excess flour back into the flour container) the top of the cup. Do not pack the flour in the cup, keep it lose and fluffy.

To make one huge cookie, press dough into bottom of un-greased 9×13-inch metal baking pan. Or make huge cookie shape on baking pan. Make cookie shape one half inch thick. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Stay strong, write on, and bake well.
Professor Hyram Voltage

The Author and Social Media

At CoKoCon I attended a panel on Branding. It was not what I expected.

It boiled down to showing videos of your cat (or dog) on your blog. One author on the panel was a fan of The Great British Baking Show and her blog is about cookies and other bake goods.

So as a bribe to get you to visit this site here is an old family chocolate chip cookie recipe.

From; Professor Voltage’s Book of extraordinarily DANGEROUS Cooking

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Old family recipe

Ingredients;

2 1/4 cups all-purpose floor (un-shifted, just scoop it out without compressing the flour and strike off with back side of butter knife so the flour is level with the top of the cup).
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup butter (two sticks)(softened, see tips)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoon Vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions;

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (check oven temperature with thermometer).
  2. Place gallon sized plastic bag in small, steep sided, bowl. A metal bowl with a 6 and 1/4 to 6 and 3/8 mouth works great.
  3. In plastic bag place; flour, baking soda, and salt. Close end of bag, take bag out of bowl and mix well (think shake and bake). Set bag aside.
  4. Place butter in a large mixer bowl. Start mixer and beat butter.
  5. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar to mixer bowl. Beat until butter and sugar are creamed. See tips on creaming butter (it takes about 5 to 10 minutes in an electric mixer, mixture will be light colored and fluffy).
  6. Add Vanilla and beat till well mixed.
  7. Add eggs and beat well.
  8. Add flour gently or there will be a flour explosion and flour will be everywhere. I told you this was dangerous. Don’t get plastic bag caught in mixer.
  9. When well mixed turn off mixer. Raise mixer head and clean off beaters.
  10. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts with spatula, by hand.
  11. Spoon rounded lumps (I use a ordinary tablespoon) onto ungreased baking/cookie sheet.
  12. Bake 10 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.
  13. Let baking sheet stand in cool place for five minutes.
  14. Remove cookies from baking sheet.
  15. Store cookies in an air tight container. Makes about 5 dozen cookies. Tips;
    Make sure cookie sheets fit in oven and oven door will close.
    Place oven rack in middle of oven.
    Preheat oven.
    Make sure baking soda is good. If in doubt get a new can.
    Softened butter means let butter sit at room temperature until you can press on butter and leave a impression in the butter.
    Creaming butter is an old baking term. It means beating butter until air is trapped inside the butter mixture. It makes for a thick cookie (airy, chewy).
    Don’t skip the salt.
    Keep the dough cool. Place dough in refrigerator if it starts to get warm. Warm dough makes flat cookies.
    Using melted butter makes flat cookies. Some people like flat, thin, hard, cookies (with coffee).
    Use three large baking/cookie sheets. One in the oven, one being loaded, and one cooling.
    Make sure baking/cookie sheet is cool before placing cookie dough on sheet. Cookie dough can be frozen. Works great. It can also be refrigerated for several days. Make a log out of the dough and wrap/roll the dough in a gallon plastic bag. When you want a cookie or two, unroll the dough and cut a half inch to three quarter of an inch off roll. Reseal the dough by warping the dough in the plastic bag and return to refrigerator. Cook the dough before eating.
    Do not grease cookie sheets. It will fry the bottom of the cookies and over cook them. The cookies have enough butter in them they don’t need grease.