Happy Easter with The. Best. Bread. Ever.

My youngest older sister married a nice Slovak boy. My maternal uncle married a nice Slovak girl. They both brought great recipes into the family, so that we began to say, “cut a Slovak, they bleed good recipes.”

Here’s one of my favorites, my sister’s take on Paska, the slightly sweet and wonderfully dense Paska-wholebread from the traditional Slovak Holy Saturday meal. Paska, along with red beets-and-horseradish, ham, sausage, hard-boiled eggs, new salt, syrec*, apples, and nut and poppy seed rolls, is loaded into a basket and taken to church for a special blessing, then served up at noon. I look forward to Paska all year long. Since I won’t be back in Pennsylvania for Easter, my kind sister generously sent me a loaf. I did a happy dance through the kitchen!
(*A mild, homemade cheese. Great with apples and the ground red beets and horseradish.)

Paska’s Basic Dough**
**The original recipe calls for an interior cheese dough. My sister’s never bothered with it, and I’ve certainly never missed it. The entire recipe can be found in God Bless the Cooks–a cookbook dedicated to feeding family reunion hordes with proceeds supporting charitable works. Let me know if you want to buy one ($20). I can hook you up, while supplies last.

Yield: Four Paskas
Baking pan: 9″ tube pan (optional)
Temperature: 325F for 10 minutes, then 350F for 40 minutes. (Total: 50 minutes)

8 cups flour
2 Tbs. salt
1 cup warm water
1/4 lb. butter
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 cups milk, at boiling point
1 cake yeast
3 eggs
1 cup golden raisins (optional)

Crumble yeast in 1/2 cup water and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Set aside for 5 minutes. Pour boiling milk over sugar and butter; add balance of water. Cool to lukewarm. Sift flour into bowl; add salt, eggs, milk mixture, yeast, and raisins. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Place dough in large bowl lightly greased with vegetable oil. Cover. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about two hours, in a warm place.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured board and shape into four parts. Place into 9″ tube pan, covered to prevent drying, and let rise for 30 minutes. Just before placing in the oven, brush top with beaten egg yolk. Bake for 325F for 10 minutes, then increase temperature to 350F and bake for another 40 minutes.

(The tube pan is optional. I’ve also seen these braided, and clearly, a round loaf is perfectly acceptable!)

The reward:
Paska-cutMy own Paska tradition: the first slice, just buttered; the second, with butter and honey; the third, with strawberry jam. Repeat as necessary.

Now, if she’ll send me a loaf of her raisin-cinnamon bread, I’ll post that recipe, too!

Fables and Universal Truths

“Fable is more historical than fact, because fact tells us about one man and fable tells us about a million men.” – GK Chesterton

The father of a friend of mine never read fiction. Fiction “wasn’t true,” and therefore a “waste of time.” Too bad he never heard Chesterton’s quote. GK was onto something. Jung’s version was “the most personal is the most universal.” And this is the truth that drives good fiction.

Now, I’m not saying all fiction is created equal. There’s quite a lot of dreck that is a complete waste of time. But…I love the stories where heroes rise up in defense of the good, the true, the honorable; where love, sacrifice, and courage matter.

In our daily rounds of facts, seldom do we notice how one life well-lived makes a positive difference in the lives of others; in the life of the world. Biographies give us the example of a great person. But we can easily excuse ourselves from being a Washington, a Lincoln, a Gandhi…a Jesus. Or we can console ourselves, that at least we are not Stalin, Pol Pot, or Hitler. But the fluidity of fiction invites us to identify with the hero. Fiction gives us a chance to see the truths within us. Good fiction celebrates the power of the human spirit. Looking into the mirror of fiction, we see not only the best (and sometimes the worst) of ourselves–but of humankind.

Or, as another good friend has said: “You may not like it, but you’re an awful lot like me.”

Music Monday: Béla Bartók

And now, for something a little different…

Happy Birthday, Béla Bartók! I hardly know anything about him. I saw his name on the list of “today’s famous birthdays.” While I’ve enjoyed my share of classical music, I generally like it light, and I’m usually more into guitar (gotta post some Christopher Parkening here sometime). And bluegrass. Or rock. Or Mumford and Sons. Or Gregorian chant. Or…you get the idea. But I thought I’d check Bartók out on YouTube.com.

If Monday’s run you off your feet and you’re looking for something to get the juices flowing, there’s nothing quite like a virtuouso pianist pounding the ivories. Here’s an excellent example: Lars Roos playing Béla Bartók’s Allegro Barbaro, Sz 49, BB 63

Now, go conquer the rest of the week!

Rites of Spring Blog Hop

Hello SF/SFR fans, and welcome to my stop on the Rites of Spring Blog Hop! Instructions for the giveaway are at the end of the post.

Here in cyberspace, the harbingers of the season aren’t the greening of the grass, the warming of the winds, or lengthening days borne in on the wings of returning birds. Instead, we offer you the opportunity to load your e-reader (or your nightstand) with books you’ll want to curl up with during the last chilly nights–and take to the beach on the first warm days.

If you like epic SF, with a dash of the Celtic, and a story where love matters…then “FORGE: Book I of the Thrall Web Series” is your kind of book. Think “Jason Bourne meets Braveheart in space.” Now add dark scary bad guys….

The Khevox are race of amoral psychic predators who fuel their powers with the life energy of slaves harnessed to their masters’ will by the thrall web, etched into their skin in a brutal rite of binding.

The psychically gifted humans of the Scotian Realm, warned by their high king’s vision, have been expecting the arrival of an enemy who will enslave them, body and soul. While they don’t know the identity of the enemy, they know their only hope of victory is an alliance among the three peoples, Scotians in partnership with the wary and distrustful reptilian Xerni and Tormin amphibs of the neighboring star domains.

No one recognizes the enemy already walks among them. No one dreams the fate of the three peoples is tied to the destiny of a man unjustly trapped in the chains of an indentured servant–an izzy.

Keir, found naked and crashed out, is an unidentifiable and mindblind amnesiac known only as “Tazhret”–“Nameless” in the Tormin tongue. Sentenced to servitude, he survives on scraps of kindness from his master’s mate–and clings to the vision of a woman with nut-brown hair, who insists he has a good name.

In the snippet I’ve chosen for this event, this is Keir’s first flesh-and-blood encounter with the woman who has haunted his dreams for two years; the woman who has just healed him, and dragged him from the edge of death…


   Black and total. The darkness of a sunless cavern deep in the bowels of the earth where Scotian demons cavorted with the Te, dark gods of the Xerni, toying with their mortal victims. [Keir] struggled against rock from the devil’s furnace. Crushed, cut, seared, pinned helpless. Dirt gritted in his mouth and nose, filled his lungs, and choked him. In an agony of effort, he clawed the burning rock, fought for every breath. But the rock was impervious, and the weight grew heavier. His body melded into the earth, while the demons laughed in the dark.
   A spark danced across his vision, breaking the black. Flaring brighter, it moved over him and freed him from the fiery, entombing dark. A voice, unrecognized yet familiar, insisted he leave the clutching shadows behind and join her in the light. His stumbling steps grew more confident, and he followed the voice down a long road from the darkness.
   He opened his eyes.
   I’m either dreaming, or I’m dead. The muzzy-headed thought held no particular terror for him. Wherever he was, she was there—nut-brown hair, pale skin, and large amber eyes flecked with topaz and emerald. She smelled of rain, of the clean thunderstorm sweeping over the green river valley. She was so beautiful. Just like he remembered. He would have smiled, but he was so very tired.
   A cool hand touched his burning forehead, and he fell into deep sleep.



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Thank you for joining us for the “Rites of Spring Blog Hop.” Enjoy the rest of your tour. Keep your hands inside the shuttle, and watch out for twisting wormholes!

Return to Rites of Spring:

“Star of the County Down”

Top o’the Mornin’ to you!

I like to post things musical on Mondays. I figure everybody’s spirits can use a little lift, facing into another busy week.

Given that yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day (Did you wear green? I did!) my taste is running toward the Celtic. For me, it’s a pretty short leap from Celtic to the Scotian Realm…which leads me directly to “Star of the County Down.” This is an old Irish folk tune  I claimed as part of the musical heritage of the Scotian Realm–mainly because I had the image of a “girl with nut-brown hair.” I must have heard this song sometime in my life, because I recalled that scrap of lyric. But I had to find it on youtube.com to remember the whole–and it was perfect, because it’s just the kind of song you can sing in haze of drunken glory.

For Keir, the hero of FORGE, this song saves his life at the beginning of the book. Abandoned to die in the lunar transfer station’s waste processing center, he makes enough noise with his lusty rendition of this tune that the izzy (indentured servant) making her rounds decides to investigate before hitting the button and disintegrating the day’s refuse…and him along with it. (Moral of the story: You never know when a song will make your day!)

Here’s the version from a small venue in 1999 by Van Morrison and The Chieftains. Enjoy, and have a wonderful week!

Sentimental Journey

I’m going home to Pennsylvania at the end of the week.

Dad will be 92 on Wednesday. The birthday party is on Saturday, and my husband and I plan to be there, along with the rest of the clan.

All Dad wants for his birthday is a family party with a little pickin’n’grinnin’…recorded, so he can listen to it back at the nursing home. We’re more than happy to oblige. His five kids, six grandkids, four great-grandkids, and any number of nieces and nephews and their kids, siblings and the respective inlaws of all the above categories will be on hand to add to the general merriment and musicality. There will be plenty of food and drink, of the minor and adult variety. As we like to say: “The more you drink, the better we sound.”

In honor of Dad, and the journey back home for his birthday, I’m posting one of Dad’s favorite songs. There were other versions of “Sentimental Journey” on youtube.com. But this one had pictures of the WWII vets and the people of the time–who did what needed to be done when the world needed it most. This is most likely the version that Dad heard while he was in the Navy, sung by the marvelous Doris Day.

We’ll probably sing this at the party…but probably not quite as well!

Happy birthday, Dad, with lots of love and prayers.


Welcome…Guest Author Robert Roman!

very pleased to welcome Robert Roman to my blog today. Bob and I have been writing buddies for a while now, and there’s a reason: I enjoy his stories! I’m reading both of his online Juke Pop Serials, and I want to find out how they end, so please…go out and give them votes!

And now, without further ado, here’s Bob:

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I’m writing two simultaneous serials at the moment, as well as holding down a full time (645a-445p) teaching job, so the idea of “when I’m not writing” sounds a little silly, but lately my free time has been spent playing Mass Effect 3 with my wife and Pokemon with my son. 

What would you do with a time machine?

I’m a big Doctor Who fan; what wouldn’t I do with a time machine? 

What do you enjoy reading? What’s in your TBR pile?

Of course! I’ve just finished rereading the Wheel of Time series, and I’m waiting to get my hands on the last book. I’ve also just caught up with the Dresden Files, read Redshirts, and started reading the Old Man’s War series. That’s about all that’s in my TBR pile for certain right now. 

What authors have influenced your writing?

Tolkien. Moorcock. Cooper. Weber. Lackey. Ringo. Jordan. Butcher. Westerfeld. Sanderson. Briggs.

Also, and he gets his own paragraph because I am a huge fanboy, Pratchett.

What genre(s) do you write in? What attracts you to it/them?

Ah, the Genre question! I write in Steam Punk, Fantasy (both Urban and Contemporary), Science Fiction and, occasionally, Romance. Much to the dismay of everyone who tries to sell my work, I often do so all at the same time.

I’ve been told by my friend Maureen (and others) that I actually write Horror, but that’s not true. I…just frequently find myself using the elements of Horror when writing my fiction. I think the reason I do that is because Horror, like Romance, evokes such visceral reactions, whereas the stereotypical Science Fiction or Fantasy story evokes very ephemeral, intellectual reactions, and sometimes those just aren’t what I’m going for. Fantasy and Science fiction both have the potential to show very vivid, moving things, and I try to do that. Sometimes I even succeed.

I’ve also been told I write humor, only not really. Some said I take all of the elements of a completely over the top, campy humor story and then write them completely seriously. Which, if you think about it, may be another place the Horror comes from.

What’s your day job? Does it affect your writing?

I’m a teacher, and it does. First and foremost, it takes up an enormous amount of raw time. I mentioned the 645 to 445 schedule before, and that’s before any time spent grading papers, preparing lessons, or anything like that. The extra time mostly goes to working with my students in a mentor capacity. I work at an Urban school, and a lot of the kids don’t have any adults they trust. I figure for every non-school question I answer, that’s another few minutes (hours? days?) they have to spend thinking about school stuff.

On the other hand, my students inspire me. I see kids walking to school every single day with no coat, and I’ve found out later they’re doing it because there’s no one at home to buy them a coat, because “home” is an abandoned building. When a kid like that is making it to school every day, I have no excuse why I can’t spend an hour writing every day.

Also, some of my students are just such… characters. For example, if ever one of my characters says “made me feel some kinda way,” one of my students (she knows who she is, and she’s a “Genius!”) is directly responsible.

Note…Bob didn’t mention it here, but if you go out to his website, you’ll see that he plans to split half the money he earns from writing between his school science lab and his student Anime, SF, Game & Writing Club. You can help just by reading and voting for his online Juke Pop serials (fun, easy & free!) Check out http://www.robertcroman.com/ to learn more.

Tell us about your new release.

One of my two current serials is Blank, a Young Adult Space Opera. It’s an ongoing YA serial, so a hard wordcount isn’t available, but I expect it to wind up around 70,000 words. It’s the first in a three book planned series.

Describe the hero &/or heroine in three words each. What two words best sum up their relationship?

– Dustie (the Heroine) – Focused, Haunted, Conflicted
– Tomas (Hero #1 (there’s always a love triangle)) – Solid, Prepared, Considerate
– Guy (Hero #2) – Dashing, Snarky, Secretive
– Dustie & Tomas – Cyrano, Roxanne
– Dustie & Guy – Primal, Misunderstood

Who is your favorite character from this book? (Can you include an excerpt involving this character?)

Dustie, definitely.
(See below for excerpt.)

What other titles do you have published? (Please include a brief sentence or two about each.)

Blue Bloods Everyday heroes gifted with superpowers in the wake of global catastrophe!
The Strange Fate of Capricious Jones – A mother is betrayed at 30,000 feet, a motherless daughter finds peril in the middle of a war. Steam (Diesel Steam) Punk!.
A Christmas Evening Vigil – Sequel to Cap Jones. Leigh Abrams comes into her own. Steam Punk Christmas Sweet Military Romance with Heroic Cyborg Zombies and Skateboarding Diesel Powered Giant Mecha.
Road Mage – A handicapped mage with a checkered past must fight against an evil sorcerer everyone else thinks is a hero (strong language)
Fae Eye for the Golem Guy – Micah Slate has fallen for Ophilia Morgan, but she doesn’t know he exists. Leave it to his Pixie Godfather to make things right! (Adults Only, some explicit scenes.)
What Not to Fear – Sequel to Fae Eye. Michaela Miles is a fallen angel trying to make her way as a police officer. Her new partner, George Matthew Franklin, (Micah and Ophilia’s godson) isn’t making that any easier, and the demon stalking the town is just the icing on the cake. Pixie Godfathers to the rescue again! (Adults Only, some explicit scenes.)

Where can my readers find you?


Where can my readers find your books?

Blank (free, but please vote!) – https://www.jukepopserials.com/home/read/73/
Blue Bloods (free, but please vote!) – https://www.jukepopserials.com/home/read/74/
The Strange Fate of Capricious Jones – http://www.amazon.com/Strange-Capricious-Jones-Angel-ebook/dp/B0043EVBJI/
A Christmas Evening Vigil – http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Evening-Vigil-Angel-ebook/dp/B004EEPNQE/
Road Mage – http://www.amazon.com/Road-Mage-ebook/dp/B00408A6RU/
Fae Eye for the Golem Guy – http://www.amazon.com/Fae-Eye-Golem-Artifice-ebook/dp/B003ZDO3NY/
What Not to Fear – http://www.amazon.com/What-Not-Fear-Artifice-ebook/dp/B0058V1QLI/


I stood transfixed, staring at the beautiful, deadly armor at the far end of the bay, until the sound of a throat clearing startled me out of my reverie. I turned to face the young man I assumed was the Middie First, a little surprised that my clone father’s memories hadn’t sparked at the sight of the Dragon armor. I opened my mouth to report, and a thousand images washed over me. Grace, her hair a living beacon of red and gold. Her augments, green fire crackling across her skin, frying ‘Sect and ‘Mech and Vulg’ alike, no matter which dared touch her. Her armor, viper fast, incalculably strong, and powered by the captured heart of a collapsed star, flashing scarlet and gold in the light of a dying ‘Sect dreadnaught.


I came back to myself at the Middie First’s deep bass bark. I gripped his left hand in my right, squeezing across the palm in a crusher grip, holding it centimeters from my shoulder. By the look of him, he could have broken the hold without trying, but for some reason he was just staring at me. With arms that thick and a chest that broad, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he could break me in half at the waist. A quick glance at his armor, gaping open like a steamed clam, corrected my earlier mistake. He wasn’t piloting training armor, he was piloting a suit of heavily reinforced combat armor with absolutely no decoration, just the gray on white of a unit assigned to a school ship. I looked back at him, only to find him staring pointedly at my fingers gripping his hand.

“Sorry.” I let go of him, pulling my hand behind my back. Trying to make amends, I nodded toward his armor. “That looks really durable.”

He grinned, shaking his hand as he did so. I knew I hadn’t really hurt him, but it was nice of him to act like it. “Thanks. I’m gonna major in Armoring when I make Senior.” Despite his grin, he didn’t meet my eye. Instead he gestured to the EVA suit. “Commandant DeLann is waiting.”

I took First Officer Quick’s hint and got myself into the suit. When my sopping wet dress uniform stuck in one of the sleeves, the First grabbed it and pulled it up over my arm. One limb at a time, he helped me force the EVA suit on over my recalcitrant uniform. Finally he pulled the seal shut on the front. He tried to anyway. He stopped with one hand on each lapel, looking anywhere but my breasts. I sighed, grabbed the lapels away from him, and forced the seals shut. He moved to pull the helmet over my head, but I brushed him away and seated it myself.

The moment the helmet sealed, the world went silent save for my own breath and the quiet squish of sodden fabric. The First blushed and stepped away. He backed into his armor, slamming his arms into the forearm grips as he did. It closed over him, the armored plates, long curved claw-arms and short, powerful legs giving it almost crab-like appearance.

I hadn’t done much EVA work in the Rim Fleet. Out on the edge, we practiced for powered armor combat, but we mostly thought anyone who came all the way from another galaxy with a fight in mind would be riding in something that would take serious ship-based weapons to deal with. I’d have to get used to the way the rest of the Imperial Fleets relied on their Armor for just about everything. Without a set of armor of my own, I was stuck in an EVA suit like a little kid or a Civ.

The First finished his preflight and reached out with one big, claw-like hand to pick me up. I stiffened at being treated like a child, but the bay was already venting to vacuum. With no air in the room his externals wouldn’t pick it up if I shouted at him, and he hadn’t opened a com line. All I could do was fume quietly while he carried me to the bay door.

Once we left the bay, the view washed my anger clean away. Stars like a solid, glowing belt arced across the endless black of space. Beauty warred with claustrophobia somewhere in my gut, and despite all I’d been through today, beauty was winning. Before I could soak it all in, the First engaged his armor’s drives, turning us about and pushing us away from the bay. After a minute or so, we spun about and there, like a huge buckle on the broad belt of the Milky Way, my new home glowed brilliant red and gold.

“Gorgeous, isn’t it?”

I hadn’t heard the click of the com line opening, and for a moment I was too overwhelmed by the stars and ship to reply. My claustrophobia was fighting a heroic delaying action in the pit of my stomach, but my heart was racing and my eyes felt like they were going to pop out of my head. I wanted nothing more than to stay right here ogling the splendor of the stars and my new home among them.

Yeah, EVA is like that.

Thanks, Bob, for visiting today. I’m looking forward to the next installments of Blank and Blue Bloods on Juke Pop Serials…so keep writing those chapters! Meanwhile, I’m gonna go hide the keys to the TARDIS.

SFR Brigade Presents…FORGE

Welcome! I’m glad to have you stop by this corner of “SFR Brigade Presents…”

So you think you’re having a bad day? Imagine waking up from a nightmare of enslavement…in jail. With no idea how you got there, or even who you are. You’re “Tazhret”…”Nameless.” You’ve been accused of being a drug addict–because they found you rocketed on an illegal hallucinogen. And now, you’re about to be turned into an indentured servant–an izzy. You’d probably be looking for a lifeline, too. Someone–even if she might be only the product of your drug-fueled hallucinations–who tells you what you most need to hear….


Rough hands hauled him off the cot. Dizzied, he stumbled between the deputies, his steps dragging out of the cell, across the back of a large room crowded with desks, toward an oversized, dull-metal armchair, covered with straps. He stopped short on a hard gasp. The deputies pushed him forward.

“Move along, Tazhret,” the chief constable ordered. “This is your simplest path to a fresh start—”

Tazhret erupted into sudden violence, twisting out of the deputies’ grasp, jamming his elbows into their guts. They doubled over. A right cross to the chief’s jaw rocked the Tormin back.

Tazhret ran. Ran toward the exit, almost flying in light gravity. Must be on a lunar transfer station—

The electric hammer of a hurled shockstick hit him in the back of his head, fried his nerves, and plunged him back into darkness. Chains waited for him there, and an evil master. And a woman with nut-brown hair, who whispered, “You have a name.”

Hope you enjoyed your visit!


Return to SFR Brigade Presents.