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By request, here is Alya and Marinette get a Cloe makeover by wotpast on @DeviantArt


I documented on earlier posts how I was trying to uncover a recipe for the brown gravy used in Mandarin chicken (found in Louisiana Chinese restaurants) despite the name, it is in no way an orange flavored dish. After a lot of trial and error, I have finally figured out a recipe that gives me great results nearly every time.


All purpose flour – 1/2 to 1 full cup (quantity depends on things like humidity and altitude, you have to play around with it to get the thickness of the gravy to what you want)

5 cups water

3/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup karo syrup (light or dark)

1tsp anise

And optional 1/4 tsp crusted red pepper


1: Crush anise and red pepper in mort and pestle

2: mix flour and 1 to 2 cups of the water

3: add in anise and red pepper

4: pour into pan. Add remaining water. Mix well

5: stir constantly over medium heat until thickens

6: add soy sauce, stir over heat until thickens

7: add karo syrup. Stir until sauce is desired thickness. Take off heat. Let cool.

8: pour sauce over breaded chicken breasts or grilled chicken and rice. Can serve over lettuce for restaurant touch. Add crushed peanuts to top. Enjoy!

And that is it. This is the closest I’ve come to the Mandarin chicken from our Chinese restaurants. Of course every place had its own unique Mandarin chicken, so some may be a little different, but this recipe makes a very tasty dish, nonetheless.

– Amanda

Here is my Fan Fiction based off of the awesome Netflix series, Miraculous: The Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir. Enjoy!


I really enjoyed this writing experiment. It was a lot different than writing my books. My hope is that one day my characters can inspire someone the way I was inspired by this show.



I have published under the names A. D. McLain and Amanda Young


Romance by A. D. McLain

Wolf of the Past : Nicole was a simple college student, dealing with the recent deaths of her adoptive parents by trying to expose pollution problems with a local company. Grief soon becomes the lease of her worries when the company finds out about her investigation and tries to end her meddling, but Nicole has the help of two unlikely allies, a strange black wolf and an even stranger man named David.

Wolf of the Present : Wolf of the Present is a hot love story with a twist: Girl meets boy. Girl falls in love with boy. But boy is a werewolf. Meg is a girl with a troubled past. In and out of foster homes, and the survivor of tragedy as a child, she has just entered college. She meets Mark, who wants to heal the pain he sees in Meg’s eyes. However, Mark also has some painful secrets in his past.

Wolf of the Future : Werewolves are real. That’s the first thing you need to know. Mara is one of them. Older than the others, she is powerful, beautiful, and alone. Billy never knew about the paranormal world that existed right in front of his eyes. All he knew was his feelings for this strange woman he couldn’t get out of his head.

(coming soon) Calaspia

Psy Touch : NaNoWriMo An erotic exploration into Earth’s near future, where a thought can pleasure or kill. After the great psy storm of the early twenty first century, everything changed. Humans gained the ability to physically influence other people with a thought. The psy-sex industry exploded. So did psy crimes. Society began to break apart into a debauchery filled experience of exploration and no rules.

You can find these books on Smashwords and Amazon.


Fantasy by Amanda Young

Suriax : If it was legal to kill, would you? Suriax and Aleria were sister cities, separated by the Therion River. Both were founded on a strict observance of the law, but they could not have been more different. For King Veritan founded Suriax on the teachings of Venerith, the Corruptor, a god of laws devoid of morality. In Suriax there is no “right” or “wrong.” There is only “legal” or “illegal.

Awake the Cullers : What do you do when the monsters are real? Legend spoke of people unafraid of pain. They gloried in war and death. Indescriminate killers, they fought past the point when most men would be dead. Nearly unstoppable, they terrorized the lands until at last they were wiped out in the Great Wars. Or so the world wished to believe. On the cusp of transition, Ondar braces for a return to the horrors

A Ball Book : Counting, colors, ball opposites, and more. Learn about a favorite toy with pictures and sign language. (a children’s book)

You can find these books on Smashwords and Amazon.






I just went to my first Comic Con this year! It was a lot of fun. We walked A LOT and saw some cool costumes. I got to see Bruce Campbell from maybe thirty feet away as he signed autographs. We didn’t get to see too many other celebrities. They were stuck behind booths and lines of people waiting for autographs and pictures. While it would have been cool to meet a few of them in person, there was no way I wanted to or could spend hundreds of dollars for an autograph and a few seconds shaking a hand, saying hi and posing for a picture. It’s just not worth it.

So we walked around, spent way too much on overpriced lunch, had a few lightsaber battles, and shot a nerf gun at some storm troopers.

Then something magical happened. My kids asked a girl dressed as Anna from Frozen for her autograph. From that point on they were on a mission: Get Lots of Autographs. They asked anyone in a cool costume. We got the Penguin (Adam West era), Darth Vader and many others. As the Flash signed their books, I realized something. Feeling bad I couldn’t afford to have my kids meet the “real” Captain America or any of the others, I looked at the joy on the faces of these normal people and asked myself this question. What made their autographs any less legitimate than the actors? The actors get paid to put on the cowl or mask. We were the costumes because we love the characters. They mean something to us. And it’s fun.

The actors sometimes don’t even like the characters they play. Some refuse to do sequels because they aren’t getting paid enough or are afraid of getting typecast. But besides that, the actors are still just people who wear a costume, just like all the normal people doing the same thing. They get paid. We don’t. Who cares? None of that matters to a child excited to se Baymax or Spiderman.

Maybe instead of us all standing in long lines and paying hundreds of dollars to get their autographs, they could learn something from their smallest of fans and come join us on the floor, walk around, see all our cool costumes and get our autographs. After all, we don’t charge, and that’s got to be more fun than sitting behind a table all day.

So, while my kids didn’t get to meet William Shatner, they did get the Kirk and Spock selling macaroons to sign their books. It made my kids happy, and it made the people happy, too. I call that a good day!

Special thanks to all the wonderful Comic Con fans who happily play along with mine and all the other kids out there. You are what really makes the Comic Con experience great. Oh, and Mr. Penguin, you’re signature was awesome!


–Amanda McLain-Young

(A.D. McLain)

Website Problems

My website is now Similar to the old website, but you have to type the “webs” part in now.  I lost the domain back in October and have been in the process of fixing the free website picture links. If you notice any that don’t work let me know. It has been a pain and Now I have to fix the link in a few dozen other places as well. Not to mention all my business cards and brochures are incorrect now. *sigh* That’s what happens when your domain come due right after you have a baby. A couple of months of not really checking email caught up to me and I forgot I didn’t have it on automatic payment anymore.  It has been very discouraging. I can’t get my old domain back unless I’m willing to pay a couple of thousand dollars to get it. And now all my previously published books reference a website that no longer functions. I apologize for any confusion. You can still find my books by searching on smashwords or amazon. If you ever have trouble locating info on any of my books, please let me know. Thank you all for your patience and understanding as I work to correct this problem.

BTW: Currently working on my next book. No promises on publish date. but I have a good part of the outline figured out, so whenever the new baby gives me a chance to work on typing it, I should be able to crank it out relatively quickly. 🙂

Sincerely, A.D. McLain


Take a look at my earlier post to get up to speed on my journey to discover the recipe for New Orleans style Mandarin Chicken.

So after many failed attempts I called a restaurant and found out that at least one of them uses a spice called Anise. Let me warn you, a little goes a long way. It is very overpowering in the flavor.

So basically you create a generic flour and water sauce and add anise. I tried some soy to cut down on the anise flavor. I’ll post again when I get a good recipe with definitive measurements. Also, I’m going to scout out some other places to see if everyone uses anise. So far I just know of the one place.


*Update on the Beef and Broccoli sauce, I left the red pepper off my earlier posts.

Beef and Broccoli/Vegetable Brown Gravy Recipe

(I found this recipe first, thinking it was the elusive Mandarin Chicken Sauce and finding a perfectly good sauce for my other Chinese food vegetable dishes.)

2 tbsp. cornstarch

1 1/4 c. water

1/3 c. soy sauce

1/4 c. Karo syrup (light or dark)

1/4 tsp. red pepper

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–A.D. McLain


So, as many of you know, I help my mom with her publishing needs, too. Last week, she asked me to help her publish an illustrated children’s book. I have actually been sitting on it for a couple of years not really sure how to start, but I finally decided to face the task head on and get it done. Fifty to Sixty hours of work later, I am mostly there.

I’ve talked to many people who had no trouble creating illustrated ebooks before. For some reason, that luck was not with me on this project. A little background: I generally self publish through (for my paperbacks) and (for my ebooks). I also recently learned how to use the Kindle Direct Publishing services to upload a kindle version to Amazon. I’ve made several books that were mostly text with just a few pictures, a logo near the title, my author pic at the back. No problem. I followed all the formatting guidelines on Smashwords and Createspace and never had any trouble getting my word files to upload and view correctly.

So for this book I knew it would be different. First I created an InDesign file to do the layout for the paperback. I normally start with the ebook and then format for paperback, but since I was more confident in doing an illustrated paperback, I started there this time. I created my page layout and then exported my Indesign file to a PDF. I uploaded to Createspace and all was good. The online proof looked great. I just had to tweak the pictures to make them a higher resolution. They recommend 300 dpi, but no less than 200 dpi to keep the images from looking blurry. Basically I just went back into photoshop with each of my images, changed the resolution from what it was to 200 and then saved, went back into inDesign, updated links and re-exported to pdf. Uploaded new file to Createspace and problem was solved. The only other thing I had to play around with was the bleed on the pages. If you want your color paperback to have the pictures go all the way to the edge of the paper, you have to create the file with the images extending at least and 1/8 inch past the border and then change the bleed options in the export to pdf (print) options box. I changed the outside and top bottom to 0.25. The inside I left at 0.00.

Okay, so now I had my paperback. I just had to wait for the automated review process to finish and then go through the proofing stage.

On to the ebook. I tried using my same inDesign file and exporting to epub. The file was horrible. Pictures were floating around everwhere. Borders were on pages all their own. Nothing looked right. I tried exporting to PDF and uploading the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Uploaded but the preview was the same problem. Nothing appeared right. Following the advice of others I saved my inDesign file as jpegs and placed my jpegs in a word document. Tried uploading that to KDP and Smashwords. It looked okay in the kindle viewer (if a little small) but it didn’t view right on my kindle for pc app and it didn’t work at all through Smashwords for my nook. (Smashwords makes ebooks available in all formats – for those unfamiliar with the service) Only half of each picture was showing up. The bottom of each picture was cut off, like it was zoomed in too far and couldn’t zoom out. So I tried recreating all the pages in photoshop from scratch, saving the new jpegs and then placing in word document (also tried combining them in a pdf). Same problems.

About to give up, I saw a Kindle Comic Book Creator program you can download on the KDP website. I tried it. Uploaded my page jpegs I created in Photoshop. Saved as a Mobi file and uploaded to Kindle. It looks great on my Kindle for PC app. I then took that file and tried to convert the Mobi file to ePub to upload to Smashwords. The program I used, calibre, couldn’t even do the conversion. It gave an error message. I tried two or three other online converters and got a ePub file, but it had the same problems as my earlier attempts.

I emailed Smashwords and they told me they only accept documents that have the text seperate from the images. In other words, I can’t create an all illustrated book. Their instructions were to create a letter sized word document and insert all images with a paragraph return after each of them. So I went back into each of my original page pictures again, put their resolution at 100 and width at 5 in. (constrained proportions). I saved them to a new file, so they wouldn’t save over my old images. I opened a blank word doucment in landscape and started working. On each page I put the image on the left and formatted it so the text would wrap to the right of the picture. I lowered the page margins to 0.25″ so that there wouldn’t be so much white space around my pages. I left some margin so the text wouldn’t run into the edge of the page. Then I uploaded to Smashwords. Lo an behold, it uploaded without a problem. Viewing it as a pdf, the images stayed to the left of my text as I intended. On my nook, though the didn’t view in landscape. So I redid the word document AGAIN and put it all in portrait. My new file was too big to upload to Smashwords (file can’t be over 10 MB) so I had to compress my photos. Right click on one photo and click on compress. You can select to do it to all photos or just one. Compress for web and it will dramatically reduce your file size.

I did a lot of research this week online, and what I found was lot of other people frustrated, trying to create illustrated ebooks and running into similar and different problems. Most of the tutorials and instruction videos I found showed how to create a text heavy book with a few images in them. The other sites I found that may have had useful info were heavy in technical speak and html code (which I am not strong in). So at the end of the week, I wanted to post my journey and my findings for those who may encounter similar programs. As with all technology, my solutions won’t work for everyone, but hopefully they will help someone.

How I created and illustrated children’s book

Step 1. Write the book

Step 2. Create/Gather any pictures or illustrations needed. Need to be at least 200 to 300 dpi for use in print. You can also start work on cover for book. You will need a full cover for paperback and front cover for ebook. Size of full cover will vary depending on what size you decide to make the book. a 6×9 book usually needs around a 9 x 13 cover, give or take depending on size of spine/thickness of book.

Step 3. Decide how to do layout.

You can either do paperback in a program like inDesign and ebook in Photoshop and Word or do it all in Photoshop and Word, but you will need three seperate files either way. They require different canvas/page size and resolutions.

For paperback you select what size the paperback will appear in. Most of mine are 6 x 9, but there are others to choose from. See createspace for options. Image resolution higher than ebooks.

Ebooks are usually 1024 x 600 pixels and resolution needs to be around 72 dpi (I just set mine for around 100 resolution in photoshop)

Step 4. Create paperback PDF. The easiest way I found for doing the illustrated paperback was to create my layout in inDesign and export to PDF (print) with bleed set at 0.25 outside, top and bottom. 0.00 inside bleed. Upload file to Createspace with full cover jpeg and continue through that process, checking proof, correcting any errors, etc.

Step 5. Create ebook

Some people have absolutely no problem just putting their jpegs in a word document and uploading it to KDP or Smashwords. I was not one of them. My alternative:

Download Kindle Comic Book Creator

Recreate your page layout in Photoshop with 100 resolution and canvas size 1024 x 600 pixels

Upload your jpegs to the Comic Book Creator.

Save/Create your Mobi File

Upload to Kindle

Check preview or view file on your kindle if you have one.

Step6. Convert to epub for Smashwords or create new Smashwords file.

There are a lot of online converter programs. For most conversions, you can download calibre. I’ve also tried Zamzar, an online converter. It didn’t work for me on this file but helped when I was working between two different computers and versions of software and couldn’t get my tiff file to save as a jpeg I uploaed the tiff to Zamzar, selected jpeg as the output and they converted it and emailed me the link to download the new file. It’s a good site to bookmark for things like that.

If that doesn’t work . . .

Create a new word document. Type in all your text, including your copywrite page Format text according to Smashwords guidelines, available on their website

*(remember to always put a different copywrite on all these version. One for Createspace, one for Kindle and one for Smashwords. * always remember to double check you have the right copywrite page on a file before you publish to any of these sites)

Save all your jpegs you will need for the book in a smaller format.

I used 100 resolution with 5″ width so they would be roughly half the size of my pages. You don’t want to have an oversized image and resize in word. It will not convert right and the picture will be too big. You want the image to be the same size when you place it as you want it to view. If it is too big, go back and save a smaller image (different file name, of course)

Insert Picture in the word document, remembering to include paragraph return after each picture. Save and upload to smashwords.

I know this is complicated, but hopefully one day they will update their process to allow fully illustrated children’s books and comics. One benefit is that at least I can add hyperlinks to the text. Until things change, at least I got the book the way I wanted it to be viewed on Kindle.

If any of you know of a different way or other free program that works for any of this, please leave it in the comments section. Thanks.

For anyone who is interested you can read more about my mom’s children’s book “The Adventures of Snooky Snail” on her website,

*   *   *   *   *   *

–A.D. McLain

*update 5/15/13*

Okay, so a couple of weeks ago I tried Warr-Shu-Gai. Not my Mandarin Sauce.

This week I tried a combination of all the recipes. I used way too much cornstarch (8Tbs) but I finally got the consistency right. Alas, it still tasted too much like chicken and didn’t have that missing ingredient to make it pop. I ended up kind of flat and a big disappointment. In the next few weeks I will head on back to the Chinese food restauraant and see if I can’t charm some info out of the waitress. 🙂 Couldn’t hurt. At the very least, tasting it again may help me discover what I am missing. I have a feeling I am getting a lot of the elements right. But is is seriously missing something important. Oh, well, another week, another attempt. We shall see what the next attempt brings.


–A.D. McLain

Okay, so I tried the first of my new recipes and was still unable to replicate the Mandarin Chicken sauce I am trying to achieve. I tried this recipe for Warr-Shu-Gai.

Warr-Shu-Gai/Almond Boneless Chicken

It was a perfectly good sauce, although I still have trouble getting the cornstarch to really integrate into the water without clumping. But it has a strong chicken flavor and is very thin compared to the sauce on Mandarin Chicken. So far, the first sauce I tried is still a little closer, in my opinion.

Beef and Broccoli/Vegetable Brown Gravy Recipe

(I found this recipe first, thinking it was the elusive Mandarin Chicken Sauce and finding a perfectly good sauce for my other Chinese food vegetable dishes.)

2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 1/4 c. water
1/3 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. Karo syrup (light or dark)

*   *   *   *   *   *

So I am thinking maybe next time I will combine the two recipes. Maybe instead of the 1 1/4 c. water I will use the same quantity chicken broth and add the bouillon cubes. Not sure if I should continue with the cornstarch method or switch to the flour thickening method, though. My husband wants me to try four next time. Since the Warr-Shu-Gai recipe uses butter, adding flour wouldn’t be much of a stretch. I will have to see. Of course, after all these failed attempts to get the sauce right, I am really craving actual Mandarin chicken from a restaurant. 🙂 I may indulge that impulse just to see if I can get a better idea what I am doing wrong and which I am doing right.

If you have tried any of these recipes, what have your findings been?

What ingredients do you think is in Mandarin Chicken (if you are from New Orleans)?

*   *   *  *   *   *

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–A.D. McLain