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Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Monday, March 30, 2015

Game Reviews

I spend way too much time playing games. It's my way of dealing with stress. The game landscape has changed, though. It used to be that you would buy a game in the store, bring it home, unpack the disks, spend several hours installing it and setting up your system to play it, then spend hours playing. Now, most games are online, or have an online portion. It keeps me on task most of the time, since I can't play unless I'm online and when I'm not home, I'm usually not online so I don't play games. But it also can get annoying when I want to play games and I'm not home.

Then there's the whole issue of paying for games. I prefer paying for the game upfront. Most games use the in-app purchase options to make their money. I hate it. I feel nickel-and-dime'd to death when I play. Or then there's the games that require you to have lots of friends also playing the game in order to get anywhere in the game. I hate those games. I have a hard time even sharing the Wii games with a second player. MMO's? Totally out of my play-time picture.

So where can I go to find fun games that aren't going to cost me an arm and a leg or require me to have massive ranks of game friends that will still fill that need to wreak global havoc and relieve stress?

Here's a site my kids pointed me to. A lot of the games are not my thing, but they are free on the site. I've found a few on there that I enjoyed so much I went and bought the game so I could download it and play it whenever I want. Search by genres, player ranking, keywords, or a host of other ways to find your particular poison.

The site also lets you create a profile so you can save your favorite games and scores. I haven't explored any of the other social connections available through the site because when I'm off playing games, I'm not in a social mood. Besides, most of the players come across as adolescent males, not the group I'm looking for most of the time.

Here are a few of my favorite games from the site:

Cursed Treasure 1, Cursed Treasure Level Pack, and Cursed Treasure 2
These are tower defense games that don't require much coordination but they do require some strategy to be successful. You play as the dark lord defending your treasure from thieving heroes. Simple to figure out, but it takes some luck to get the highest scores on each level. The sound effects make me giggle, but then when I'm playing this type of game, I'm in a violent mood anyway so screaming and explosions are what I'm looking for.

Sushi Cat
The first of several games, Sushi Cat is an overload of cute animated cats, animated happy sushi, plinko, and sound effects. The storyline is silly. The blue blob kitty has his pet/toy stolen and he wants it back, but he isn't big enough to overcome various obstacles. He has to eat lots of sushi so he can get bigger so he can get his brown blog thing back so he won't be sad anymore. You drop him through various mazes. He eats any sushi he encounters and gets bigger. He bounces off things, so it's like playing plinko with sushi and a cat. Now that I'm trying to explain it, I realize how bizarre the game is. Just go try it out. It's easy, mostly, strange, silly, and candy colored. Watching the extreme cat jiggle and ooze his way through obstacles is worth it, though.

William and Sly 2
I play this one mostly because it wins for gorgeous graphics. You are a fox, jumping and running through a beautiful but kind of bizarre forest looking for lost pages of a research journal for the sunbathing, half-naked guy that I still don't understand why he's there. But you find fairies, sprites, mushrooms, and other fun things.

If you have time and want to jump down a rabbit hole, check out a few of these games. Have fun and don't destroy too much of the world in the process.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Man Cakes

Manly enough for a man to make, but tasty enough for a king to eat.

Okay, forget that. Too many bad jokes trying to co-exist in that sentence. I realized I haven't posted a basic pancake recipe. They are really easy to make and tasty. Make a good basic pancake and you can get as wild and crazy with the toppings as you want. Pudding, jam, syrup, fruit, yogurt, ice cream, or maybe chicken gravy.

Man Cakes

1 c. white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 T. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 egg
1 c. milk or milk substitute
2 T. melted butter

Mix dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Crack egg into a small bowl. Add milk and butter and beat together. Stir egg mixture into dry ingredients, be careful to only stir until mixed. You want a few lumps.

Heat 1 t. oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Pour batter into the pan about 1/4 c. at a time. Cook until bubbles form on the top of the pancake and only half of them break and the edges of the cake are just starting to brown. Flip carefully. Cook for another minute or two until the cake is done all the way through.

Repeat cooking process until all of the batter is cooked.

Serve with your favorite toppings. Serves 3-6 depending on how hungry they are.

If you like your pancakes thicker, just add less milk. If you like them thinner, add more. This isn't science; it's cooking! Experiment a little.

You can make these with all white flour or all whole wheat flour. The half-and-half I use keeps them light and fluffy while still giving the fiber and healthiness of the whole wheat.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ten Random Thoughts

1. It's Monday.
2. It's raining. Good for the drought, bad for my fibromyalgia.
3. It's spring! Finally.
4. Daffodils are blooming. I love daffodils.
5. Children are annoying.
6. I'm a broken record - "Do your chores and homework" is the only thing I know how to say anymore.
7. Jelly Bellys are tasty. And nasty. Depending on which flavor you get.
8. Eating jelly bellys in the dark while watching movies leads to eating way too many of the nasty flavors.
9. Dogs will eat anything, including already-chewed nasty jelly beans.
10. My bucket of blog post ideas is running dry. Anyone have any suggestions?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Thursday Recipe - S'more Quesadillas

No, not "some more" quesadillas. S'more quesadillas. Sort of. More like s'more buneulos, but not quite either.

My command of Spanish is limited to names of foods and a few numbers and simple things like "buenos dias". Buneulos, according to the all-knowing Google, are fried dough balls, but I know them as crispy tortilla strips coated in cinnamon and sugar.

This recipe is a cross between s'mores, buneulos, and quesadillas. It's also delicious. And fast. And easy.

S'more Quesadillas

2 T. cinnamon
1/2 c. sugar
flour tortillas
mini marshmallows

Mix cinnamon and sugar together. (I keep this mix in my cupboard at all times. It's amazing how fast it disappears at my house.) Set aside for now.

Heat some butter in a large frying pan over medium to medium low heat. Somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon will do it. You want to keep the heat on the lower side; butter burns easily if it gets too hot and burnt butter is not the flavor you want here. Fry a tortilla in the butter one to two minutes on the first side, just until it starts to turn golden brown. Flip it over. The toasted side should be coated with melted butter. Sprinkle it generously with the cinnamon sugar. Let the tortilla cook for another 1-2 minutes. Transfer it to a microwaveable plate.

Sprinkle about a dozen marshmallows over the cinnamon sugar. Microwave for 10-15 seconds just until the marshmallows melt. Fold it in half and serve.

Repeat as often as necessary. You could add in chocolate chips, too, to make it more like a s'more.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Giveaway Time!

I'm part of a group of authors doing a local event tomorrow, St. Patty's Day, at the Provo Public Library. If you're local, stop by for a snack, fun games, prizes, and of course, plenty of books to get signed and personalized.

I posted this a couple of weeks ago, but thought I'd post again. Enter to win ebooks! Anyone can enter from anywhere. Contest closes tomorrow so don't delay!

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Pot Roast Pork Burgundy

Sometimes I just want a roast cooked in the oven. I love my crockpots, but they just don't give the roast the same brown crust. The onions don't turn dark on the edges in the crockpot. And you can't bake potatoes with the same appliance at the same time.

Instead of a beef roast, I used a pork roast for this. It turned out very tasty.

Pot Roast Pork Burgundy

2 lb boneless pork roast
4 garlic bulbs, peeled and sliced
4 stalks celery, cut into short sticks
1 onion, sliced
1 c. water
1 T. beef bouillon mix (I use the Better-Than-Bouillon stuff)
1 t. worcestershire sauce
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

Put roast in a roasting pan. (I love my enameled aluminum roaster but use what you have. I don't recommend a glass pan for this dish, though.) Spread garlic bits over the top. Add celery and onions.

Mix water, bouillon, worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Pour over the roast and vegetables. Cover.

Bake at 400° for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until roast is done and tender.

Slice and serve with roast vegetables or baked potatoes.

Roast Gravy from Pan Drippings

Pan drippings from roast
hot water
3 T. cornstarch
1/2 c. cold water

Pour pan drippings into a measuring cup. Scrape off all the good dark stuff around the sides for really good flavor. Add enough hot water to measure 2 c. of liquid. Bring to a boil in a saucepan.

Meanwhile, mix cornstarch with cold water. Pour into boiling drippings. Stir until it thickens and comes back to a boil.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Book Review Time!

Fiction this time. Because I went to RadCon and couldn't resist picking up a few new books I've been eyeing for a while. And then read because I really really really really needed a break from the non-fiction research books and articles.

Blame the Bearer by Frances Pauli

Book 4 in the Kingdoms Gone series, but don't let it fool you. Each book mostly stands on its own. This one gives us the story of Vane, chosen by the castle of prophecy to be the Bearer of the ring and sent to fetch the Heir. Only there are three heirs and only one can sit on the throne.

I'll insert my disclaimer here. Frances Pauli is a good friend and she gave me the book. We met over blog posts for our first books. She writes fun stories and lots of them. Blame the Bearer is another fun yarn with unexpected twists and turns. Her Kingdoms Gone world is rich with old magic that only exists in pockets, gangs rampaging through the villages and towns, goodmothers without the wings or magic wand but with plenty of magical meddling up their sleeves, and magical creatures like gargoyles and gobelins.

And plenty of interesting characters who aren't quite what you expect them to be. If you're looking for a different twist on medieval fantasy stories, check out the Kingdoms Gone series. This latest book is another fascinating chapter. I can't wait for the next one.

4 stars, PG for mild violence

The First Casualty by Mike Shepherd (aka Mike Moscoe)

I met Mike Shepherd a few years ago at either RadCon or SpoCon. He's a lot of fun. He writes space opera. I picked up three of his books because I've been meaning to for a while. His space opera is more military-flavored than mine, but delivers lots of action and explosions and fun characters. I'm eying the seventeen other books he has that I don't own yet. I need to save up my pennies for those.

The First Casualty was Mike's first book. The plotting is a little uneven and a few surprises happen out of nowhere, but those minor flaws are really easy to overlook. The story is just plain fun to read but with a depth to it that made me stop and think about some of the issues the characters are trying to deal with. They're in a war with supposedly clear-cut sides and issues, but as the book unfolds, those crystal-clear problems become murky and jumbled.

The book is told from two sets of main characters, one set from each side of the war. Mary, the miner conscripted into the military, was my favorite, but the others were great, too.

I really enjoyed it and don't want to spoil the surprise, so let me just say that if you like military science fiction with plenty of adventure, you'll probably love these books.

3.5 stars, PG-13 for violence, the occasional cussword, and a couple of mildly steamy scenes

The Price of Peace by Mike Shepherd

This is sort of a sequel to The First Casualty. It takes place shortly after the war ends. The main characters are minor characters from the first book. I really liked Trouble, the marine. He's not perfect, but he stands up for what he believes in no matter the price.

I loved the relationship between Trouble and Ruth, a farmer's widow. It's romance, not just lust. I enjoyed all the characters. The spaceships and explosions and fights were just frosting on the cake. I enjoyed this one even more than The First Casualty.

4 stars, PG-13 for violence, the occasional cussword, and a couple of mildly steamy scenes

I can't wait to dive into Mike Shepherd's first Kris Longknife book: Mutineer. It's calling my name, but so are my academic projects and papers. And my own books. Reading these books has made me want to dive into writing my own stories again. I forgot how much fun books like these can be, both to write and to read.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thursday Recipe - Paprika Pork

We did this in the crockpot last night. It turned out very moist and tasty. This makes a basic pulled pork so you can dress it up with whatever sides or sauces that sound tasty to you. Serve it on sandwiches or with mashed potatoes or just eat it. It's that tasty.

Paprika comes in a variety of flavors. It's ground chili peppers so it ranges from sweet to spicy. The smoked variety is really good with this kind of dish. Paprika is usually associated with Hungarian cuisine. It isn't the same as chili powder, it's a different variety of pepper. Here, go read the wikipedia article if you want to learn more.

Paprika Pork

2 lb boneless pork roast (I used a lean sirloin roast)
2 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1 T. paprika
1 t. Italian herb mix
1/4 c. peach jam
1/2 c. water

Put the roast in a small crockpot (1-2 qt). Sprinkle with spices and herbs. Spoon the jam on top. Pour the water over everything. Cook on high for 1-2 hours, until it's hot. Turn to low. Cook another 4-5 hours. Shred pork. Return to liquid and cook for another 30 minutes.

Serves 4-6 people.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ebook Bonanza!

Six ebooks by six authors are up for grabs in this contest. We're promoting our signing event on St. Patty's Day, but since these are ebooks, anyone from anywhere can win. So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and enter. You might find some great authors to follow and some great books to read.

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