Between the Lines: The Cumberland Plateau #amwriting #research #geography #conservancy

Why did I choose the Cumberland Plateau as the location for Raven Hollow, my fictional remote valley in The Touchstone of Raven Hollow? Because it’s close to my fictionalized town of Roseville, Tennessee, and has some really interesting features associated with it.

 

IMG_2411
Closeup of a topographic map of the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. Franklin-Marion State Forest is right-center on the photo. Russell Cave is off the bottom right in Alabama.

 

A few weeks ago I talked about my recent trip to the Russell Cave National Monument and our hike in the real Franklin-Marion State Forest. Both the cave and the forest are located within the Cumberland Plateau which is part of the Appalachian mountain range. The Nature Conservancy is taking steps to protect this American treasure.

 

Cumberland Plateau-prd_016644-Nature Conservancy
Photo courtesy of the Nature Conservancy

The area has been home to humans for tens of thousands of years. Imagine what it must have been like to be among the earliest of humans who lived in this region. All the towering mountains cover with thick hardwood forest. What a spectacle the fall colors across the Appalachians must have been. They still are, but the forests are not as extensive as they were before we started clearing for homes and businesses and roads.

 

IMG_2374Still we can visit the many state and national parks dotted across the area to get a glimpse into what the wilderness might have looked like way back when mankind walked among the towering trees and crossed the many rivers and waterfalls.

Today the more remote areas of the forests are being developed or used for recreational purposes, most damaging the use of ATVs among the fragile plants and waterways. As they say when entering a park of any kind, leave on footprints, take only memories.

My hubby and I enjoyed our time in the Franklin-Marion State Forest, and we made sure to leave it as we found it for the next people who visit.

What’s your favorite park, state or national or even local? Where would you like to go that you haven’t been before?

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic…

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-kindle

B&N: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Kobo

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-UK

iBooks: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-iBooks

Google: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-GoogleBks

Tasty Tuesday: Making Brown Gravy & Force-meat Balls #colonial #recipe #howtomake #gravy #meatballs

I’ve starting to really get into some interesting historical “receipts” to convert for Tasty Tuesday! Today we’ll look at how we can use the broth I shared here to make brown gravy and force-meat balls to use in other “made dishes” I’ll talk about in upcoming weeks. Ready?

The next step is to make the brown gravy. First, you need to realize that in my house my hubby has always made the gravy. So that’s my first challenge with this recipe. Second, I needed to translate the original recipe into something not only understandable but also to a manageable quantity. Let’s look at Mrs. Hannah Glasse’s 1802 recipe:

Art of CookeryWhen you want very strong gravy, take a slice of bacon, lay it in a stew-pan; take a pound of beef, cut it thin, lay it on the bacon, slice a good peace of carrot in, an onion sliced, a good crust of bread, a few sweet herbs, a little mace, cloves, nutmeg, and whole pepper, an anchovy; cover it, and set it on a slow fire five or six minutes, and pour in a quart of the above gravy; cover it close and let it boil softly till half is wasted. This will be a rich, high brown sauce for fish, fowl, or ragoo.

Her instructions are actually the second half of the broth recipe. Since I reduced the quantity of broth, I also reduced the quantity of gravy by using smaller quantities of meat. Instead of a pound of beef, I used several pieces of stew beef that I sliced thinner. I used four baby carrots whole, and added basil and thyme as my sweet herbs. I did not use any anchovy, and used 2 cups of broth (“above gravy”) instead of one quart. For some reason, I forgot to take pictures but it was a simple simmering of ingredients and then removing the bits and pieces. My pups were happy with their treat, too!

Betty’s Brown Gravy

Ingredients:

1 slice bacon

¼ lb. stew beef, cut thin

4 baby carrots

1 small onion, sliced

1 bread crust (end slice)

Basil, to taste

Thyme, to taste

Mace, to taste

Nutmeg, to taste

Cloves, to taste

2 cups soup broth

Instructions:

In a large saucepan, lay the bacon on the bottom. Layer the beef, carrots, onion, bread, and herbs and spices.

Cook on medium heat until the bacon sizzles and the beef begins to brown.

Add broth. Cover and simmer until cooked down by half.

Remove the meat, bread, and vegetables.

Store gravy tightly covered in the refrigerator or divide into containers to freeze.

Now I have brown gravy to use to make the other dishes I’ll be adapting. See, there is an order to the progression of the recipes I’ve chosen!

Another ingredient I needed to make to have on hand for the made dishes is force-meat balls. Essentially, these are small meatballs used as filler and seasoning in dishes that are similar to what we call casseroles and pot pies.

Here’s what Mrs. Glasse would have me do:

To make Force-meat Balls.

Now you are to observe, that force-meat balls are a great addition to all made dishes; made thus: take half a pound of veal, and half a pound of suet, cut fine, and beat in a marble mortar or wooden bowl; have a few sweet herbs shred fine, a little mace dried and beat fine, a small nutmeg grated, or half a large one, a little lemon-peel cut very fine, a little pepper and salt, and the yolks of two eggs; mix all these well together, then roll them in little round balls, and some in little long balls; roll them in flour, and fry them brown. If they are for any thing of white sauce, put a little water in a sauce-pan, and when the water boils put them in, and let them boil for a few minutes, but never fry them for white sauce.

Ground TurkeySo the first thing I’ll say is that I didn’t want to use veal due to the expense. Instead, I chose another lean meat, ground turkey. I think it most likely has a similar consistency as ground veal. Note that when she says “cut fine” that would end up being very similar I would think to ground meats today. At least, I think it’s close enough.

Shaved butterLast year I made Martha Washington’s sausage and in doing so had done research as to a proper substitute for suet, which is difficult to find in my area. The result proved interesting. Frozen stick butter that you grate/shred and blend in. So that’s what I used in this recipe as well. However, there are other substitutes you may prefer to use.

All IngredientsMy intent with these adaptations is to make new doable recipes from the historic ones. Therefore, when she calls for sweet herbs I’m choosing from what I have in my spices and seasonings collection. So this time I thought Italian seasoning would taste good with the turkey and other ingredients. Other possibilities that come to mind are thyme, basil, dill weed, and rosemary.

Mace, cloves, and nutmeg are strong spices, so I used only a sprinkle of each. (We’ve determined that mace is a bit overpowering for us, so less is definitely more.) For lemon peel, I used lemon zest (grated lemon rind). I omitted the pepper and salt, but feel free to use them if you’d like.

For egg yolks, I put one in and then decided to use two to have the proper consistency. If you make these, then you can decide whether you want to use both or just one, depending on the quantity you’re making.

Betty’s Force-meat Balls

Ingredients

1 lb. ground turkey

1 stick unsalted butter, frozen then shredded

½ T Italian seasoning

Sprinkle of mace and nutmeg

½ tsp lemon zest

2 egg yolks

Rolled into BallsInstructions

Mix all the ingredients thoroughly, breaking up any lumps of butter to evenly spread it in the mixture.

Roll the meat mixture into balls. I placed them on waxed paper for easy handling. (See note below)

Note: Uncooked balls can be divided into containers (I used quart-sized freezer bags) and frozen until needed.

I’ll talk about how I cooked these for use when I share the recipes I used them in. I kept out 17 to use in the Scotch Collops recipe for next week’s post but froze the rest in 3 batches of 12.

Take a moment to consider the large amount of food the 18th-century cook must have been making. Then think about how long it would take to fix just one meal. I imagine she was pretty relieved that the evening meal was usually cold meats and lighter fare. Keep in mind the cook would not have ready-made seasoning to sprinkle on like I did, nor already ground meat to use. I know how long it took me to figure out the recipe, let alone prepare it for use. Of course, she might have some things ready to use from making different foods, but still, I think it was quite a feat to send dinner to the table.

Next week I’ll share how to put together a made dish using these ingredients and many others! Until next time!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

I thought I’d share a little about Elizabeth’s Hope, so you know what the serialized novella is all about. And remember, it’s not on sale yet, only available for my newsletter subscribers. In each newsletter, I also include a link to the novella as released up until that point, so you won’t miss out on any of the previous chapters. Enjoy!

Elizabeth's HopeCAUGHT BETWEEN DUTY AND LOVE

Joining the revolutionary army was the honorable thing to do—but Jedediah Thomson hadn’t realized how long he’d be away from the lovely, spirited Miss Elizabeth Sullivan. They’d only begun their courtship when the occupation of Charles Town, South Carolina, trapped her in the city, making it dangerous to get to her.

Elizabeth Sullivan feared for her brothers, fighting for American freedom; for her father, pretending to be a loyalist; for family and friends, caught between beliefs; and most of all for Jedediah, the man she loves, who was doing his duty. She cherished every moment they had together, knowing how swiftly it could be taken away.

And that made her willing to risk everything to claim a piece of him forever….

Between the Lines: Hiking the trails of a fictional forest #amwriting #research #wilderness #experience

When I was writing The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, I envisioned a forest where Tara and Grant would go hiking. I based it on the description and photos of the Franklin-Marion State Forest on the Cumberland Plateau in southern Tennessee. Since I had not been to that area, I drew upon my memory of other hikes I’ve taken in various parts of America to fill in the details of my fictional forest where they stumble upon Raven Hollow. I determined that I wanted to visit the forest for myself so I could share pictures of it with you. What with the weather and then moving from Tennessee into Alabama, it’s been months I’ve waited. But finally…

Last week orme-road-2.jpgI talked about my recent trip to the Russell Cave National Monument before we continued on into Tennessee to visit the state forest. One of the roads we took I wouldn’t recommend even if we did laugh our way along its gravel and sometimes paved surface. Talk about some rough going! I wished we’d had a Jeep or something instead of the Corolla. But we made it without any issues.

IMG_2377We eventually found our way through the winding back country highways into the breathtakingly beautiful forest. We parked near a trail and then started walking. Now mind you, I’m not in the best of shape so I didn’t expect to go very far. We did go quite a ways, even met a trio on horseback enjoying the beautiful day in the woods.

I was surprised to find places where the gravel and dirt trail had turned to mud. It must have rained up IMG_2374there recently, more recently than at our house farther south. We managed to skirt some of the muddy puddles but ultimately came to a complete stop when the trail ahead and the surrounding woods turned marshy and muddy. The folks on horseback had no problem with that, but for us mere mortals on foot, that was an insurmountable obstacle so we turned back toward the car.

IMG_2375I noted several differences between my fictional forest and Raven Hollow. First, the state forest had no marked trailhead or defined parking lot like my story, so if you go to Franklin-Marion do not expect to find those. The terrain is a bit different but not too much, it was still fairly easy to hike and not too steep. I had hoped to see some wildflowers, but nothing was in bloom. I didn’t see any wildlife, not even birds let alone an unkindness of ravens, so that was rather disappointing. Oh, we did see one lone turtle crossing the road, but no other animals in the forest. But the trees and the contrasts of brown bark and green leaves were soothing and energizing at the same time.

IMG_2376Overall, though, the fictional forest in The Touchstone of Raven Hollow was pretty close to what I had conjured based on the online resources and sites I’d found.

Do you like to hike? Do you need prepared or paved trails, or are you willing to rough it more?

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic…

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-kindle

B&N: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Kobo

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-UK

iBooks: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-iBooks

Google: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-GoogleBks

Tasty Tuesday: Oyster Sauce #colonial #recipe #howtomake #seafood #sauce

Oyster SauceToday’s Tasty Tuesday post is about making oyster sauce from scratch. I’ve never had this kind of sauce before, so it was an interesting challenge to make it. Unlike the broth recipe that required a good deal of adjustments, this one proved remarkably simple to tweak into an easier version. Let’s start with the original recipe…

Art of CookeryOyster Sauce is made thus.

Take half a pint of oysters, and simmer them till they are plump, strain the liquor from them through a sieve, wash the oysters very clean, and beard them; put them in a stew-pan, and pour the liquor over them, but mind you do not pour the sediment with the liquor; then add a blade of mace, a quarter of a lemon, a spoonful of anchovy liquor, and a little bit of horse-radish, a little butter rolled in flour, half a pound of butter nicely melted, boil it up gently for ten minutes; then take out the horse-radish, the mace, and lemon, squeeze the juice of the lemon into the sauce, toss it up a little, then put it into your boats or basons.

So the first consideration was the oysters themselves. I’ve seen how oysters are shucked (opened and shells removed) and knew that was not something I wanted to include in making this sauce. Nope. So I went to my grocery store and bought a pint of oysters shucked and ready to use. That way I didn’t need to figure out how you beard an oyster…

Then the equivalencies for a “blade” of mace and “anchovy liquor.” Both easy enough to deduce. A blade is a small piece of the spice, but since the original recipe called for removing it and I’m using ground, I reduced the amount from the approximate equivalence of one-half teaspoon ground mace equals a blade, to one-quarter teaspoon. The anchovy liquor is created by simmering anchovies in water and salt, which Fish Sauce lists as the only 3 ingredients. So I used a tablespoon full of that.

The horseradish is subjective, a “little” is a matter of taste after all. I found where one tablespoon fresh horseradish is the same as two tablespoons prepared. Again, since it’s supposed to be removed, I reduced the amount to one-half tablespoon.

I love the idea of rolling butter in flour. It seems to be a fine way to measure the right proportion needed. I chose to use one tablespoon stick butter (unsalted) and rolled it in flour until covered and then added it to the saucepan.

Simmering SauceThe resulting sauce was good and I’m likely to do it again but with a few minor changes. First, we tried it with grilled steak but didn’t like the combination of flavors. The next night we had the remainder over baked salmon and we enjoyed that much more. Second, I think after simmering the oysters the first time, cutting them up a bit would make a more balanced sauce instead of having the whole oysters in it.

So here’s what I ended up with.

Betty’s Oyster Sauce

Ingredients:

8 oz. raw oysters, shucked and cleaned, ready to use

¼ tsp ground mace

¼ fresh lemon

1 T Fish Sauce

½ T creamy horseradish sauce

1 T butter rolled in flour

¼ lb butter, melted

Directions:

Simmering OystersSimmer 8 oz oysters in their juices on medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Strain and reserve the liquor.

Place oysters in a saucepan and add remaining ingredients.

Simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove the lemon, squeeze the juice into the sauce.

So what do you think? Does this sound like something you’d like to try? Do you know how to shuck oysters?

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

The fourth and final story in the A More Perfect Union historical romance series follows the trials and decisions of Evelyn and Nathaniel as they try to adjust to life after the British occupation of Charleston.

Evelyn's PromiseDetermined to make her own way in the newly independent America and live free of the dictates and demands of another husband, widow Evelyn Hamilton faces soaring post-war inflation as she struggles to provide for herself and her infant son.

Militiaman Nathaniel Williams visits Charlestown, where his heart is ensnared by a smart, beautiful widow, forcing Nathaniel to make the hardest decision of his life.

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Exploring Russell Cave National Monument #writerslife #history #caving #research

Have you ever driven past a historic site multiple times yet didn’t take the time to find out what the significance of the place might be? I’ve lived in the Tennessee Valley for almost 15 years now and have driven the highway that passes the Russell Cave National Monument countless times in that span. I wanted to visit to see what northern Alabama/southern Tennessee caves looked like since, in The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Grant and Tara end up in one. My hubby and I almost stopped in on a return trip from Virginia a few months ago, but it was a rainy day and we decided to keep going. But we finally had a free Saturday on a beautiful day in June to make the short trip to investigate the monument.

We decided to make a day of it and packed a picnic and our books to read under a shady tree. We set out mid-morning and arrived at the National Park a little after 11:00. On the way in, I saw a sign that read, “Historic Shelter Cave,” and wondered what that meant. I would soon find out.

IMG_2358The cave is named after a Revolutionary War officer, Colonel Thomas Russell, who once owned the land known as the Russell farm where the cave is located. We browsed through the museum in the visitor’s center, learning about the people who once lived there. We saw a likeness of what a man of that period looked like as well as the kinds of weapons and tools they would have used. They mentioned the atlatl, a kind of leveraged spear that increases the speed and force of the thrown weapon. I was reminded of reading of the same kind of hunting spear in Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series and wondered about the linkage. IMG_2362A quick search online revealed the history of the device. According to quart.us, they were first used in Europe (where the Clan books take place) during the Paleolithic or Stone Age around 17,000 BC. People migrating across the Bering Land Bridge brought them around 15,000 BC. The atlatls were used in North America during the Paleo-Indian and Archaic periods. I like to know the linkages between places and times to have a better grasp of the flow of history and how people moved about.

IMG_2366A stream flows into and through the sheltering cave where people lived and worked for thousands of years. That’s a ready supply of water without having to venture out of the cave. There seems to be some uncertainty as to whether people lived in the cave year round or only during the fall and winter, but thousands of artifacts have been IMG_2361found. Including the Russell point arrowhead which is a style only found in this cave. Baskets, pottery, spear points and other cutting and scraping tools, jewelry as well as the charcoal remains of fires were found inside during the archeological dig conducted by first the Tennessee Archeological Society and then by the Smithsonian Institution with support by the National Geographic society. Most if not all of the tools were made using limestone, an abundant kind of stone in the Tennessee Valley.

IMG_2369The cave itself seems to have some structural concerns as there are large bolts spaced across the ceiling to keep it from falling. Indeed it appears some erosion and rock fall has occurred. We saw swallows darting in and out of the shelter but no other wildlife. Overall, it’s a very peaceful place with the merry sound of the river flowing gently by and the birds calling to one another.

We ate our lunch out front of the visitor’s center where picnic tables were situated under several large deciduous trees and pines. We were surprised to be joined by an unexpected companion, an old black dog IMG_2371we later found out is named Scoot and is 17 years old and visits from a neighbor’s property. Scoot looks an awful lot like our Sierra dog, which was rather startling when I first saw him. He kept us company for a time, which was rather sweet of him.

After we’d finished our picnic, we packed up and headed on into Tennessee to the Franklin-Marion State Forest. Why? That’s another story I’ll share next week.

So what historical sites are in your area that you haven’t visited – yet?

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic…

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-kindle

B&N: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Kobo

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-UK

iBooks: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-iBooks

Google: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-GoogleBks

Heart of Dixie Luncheon & My Big Surprise #writerslife #mentor #award #HODluncheon #grateful

I had a huge surprise at this year’s annual Heart of Dixie Romance Readers’ Luncheon in Huntsville, Alabama. My chapter celebrated 20 years of luncheons with the fabulous author Brenda Sue Novak as keynote speaker, and she didn’t let us down with her inspiring and touching speech.

As always, we had a room full of readers and authors getting to know each other, talking about their lives and their love of reading. Maybe about a few hunky book boyfriends here and there. Or about books we’ve read, life events that are touched upon in writing Everyone having a good timesome stories, and so much more.

I was happy to share hosting a table again with the awesome contemporary romance author Linda Joyce. She’s a dear friend as well as an award-winning author. Without consciously coordinating our efforts, our gifts for the Me and Lindareaders who shared lunch with us complemented each other. Perhaps we think more alike than I’d realized!

This year I had a few fans return from previous years at this and other reader events where we met and shared a good time. It’s a very flattering statement to have people who have read my stories want to sit with me, to get to know me better. I count those readers as more than fans, but as friends. A few ladies even squealed and hugged me when they saw me, which was a first for me. What a moment for me, to be “fan-girled” by a reader. Makes me smile even days later to think about.

Brenda Novak-Keynote SpeakerBrenda Novak’s speech touched on the lasting and universal feelings you’ll find in the Cinderella story. Specifically a desire to overcome obstacles to be a better person, or to reach your true potential, despite the naysayers in our lives. She emphasized the need to have dreams and to work to make them come true. She also shared the reasons for why she became a writer (her family’s financial crisis), where she gets her ideas for her stories (everywhere), and a few humorous anecdotes related to missteps as an author (her skirt hiked in her undies at one event, for example). Through it all, she showed just how human and down-to-earth of a person she is despite her acclaim as an author and her fundraising to benefit diabetes research to the tune of $2.5 million to date.

Me and Amy-receiving awardThe biggest surprise though for me was when the president of Heart of Dixie went to the podium to announce this year’s Mentor of the Year recipient and called my name. Who me? I couldn’t believe it, let me tell you. Tears threatened as I made my way to the podium to accept this beautiful award. People congratulated me all the way to the front of the room and back. Chapter mates told me how much I deserved this award, for being there to help them whenever needed. I’m honored and humbled as a result.

HOD Mentor of the Year AwardIn truth, helping others comes naturally to me. One of my mottoes has always been, ever since a little girl, “I’m here to help.” I believe in paying it forward by reaching back to give a helping hand, or a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to listen. Whatever I can do, I will.

Next year’s luncheon, our 21st, will feature as keynote speaker the NYT-bestselling author Lilliana Hart. So mark your calendars for June 9, 2018, to journey to the Rocket City, home of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, among other fun attractions. Destination: Huntsville, Alabama, my new hometown. See you then!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union historical romance series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

The Touchstone of Raven Hollow (Secrets of Roseville Book 3) is available now! Grab your copy today!

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic.

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

B&N: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Kobo

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-kindle

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-UK

iBooks: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-iBooks

Tasty Tuesday: Historical Cooking Techniques for Meat #colonial #recipe #howtomake #dinner

 

Wmbrg Kitchen
A working kitchen in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Imagine preparing a meal using the tools and vessels available.

Today for Tasty Tuesday we’re going to talk about how meats were prepared back in the 18th century. We need to remember that the cooking utensils and heat sources were very primitive and basic. A kettle over an open flame, to be exact. Or a spit turned by hand, usually by one of the children, to evenly roast meats. Thankfully, we have much better tools and utensils as well as cooking apparatuses. But for a moment, let’s pause and consider what an 18th-century cook had to work with and how she’d prepare the family’s dinner.

 

Art of CookeryIn The Art of Cookery, Mrs. Glasse discusses how to prepare various kinds of meat. Most of the time she says to boil the piece of meat, but she also talks about frying things at times. The kinds of meat she would have worked with are also different from a typical American dinner table. Ox palates and ox heads being two that come to mind. Also, rabbits make an appearance now and again in addition to the typical shank (or shin) of beef. Also the “scrag of mutton” which I’ll talk more about next week, being part of the neck of the sheep. In fact, many of the meat dishes require boiling like what is done for soups and stews, the topic of next week’s Tasty Tuesday post. You can find the complete schedule of recipes I’m planning to try – unless I chicken out and choose a different one… – by going to this post.

I wonder about what is not written in the cookbook as to techniques used and the assumed knowledge of the 18th and early 19th century cooks. I enjoy reading the language of the book, with its use of “enough” as in “when they’re enough take them out and lay them in a dish” – which means when they are finished/done put them in a dish. But what kind of dish would they have used? A flat one? A bowl of some sort? What kind of presentation did they aim for when laying out the food?

She also talks about “force-meat” which is a way of making something similar to meatballs that you stuff into larger cuts of meat. I’ll be making my version of this to share with you for the June 20 post. Many of the dishes in the book are ones we wouldn’t want to try. Sometimes because of the current cost of a particular item (veal for one!) or because it’s a cut or part that doesn’t appeal to our tastes. For example:

To dress a Fillet of Veal with Collops

For an alteration, take a small fillet of veal, cut what collops you want, then take the udder and fill it with force-meat, roll it round, tie it with a packthread across, and roast it; lay your collops in the dish, and lay your udder in the middle. Garnish your dishes with lemon.

Notice that she doesn’t say to cook the veal, in this recipe which follows another one similar on how to fix veal. In the one for how “To dress White Scotch Collops,” she says to throw the collops of veal into a stew-pan and put some boiling water over them, stir them about, then strain it off, then add some broth and seasonings to it. So here’s an example of assumed knowledge that you need to look back at earlier entries for how to prepare the meat as well as know how long to cook them or know when they are done. Collops, by the way, are small rounds of meat. I’ve never tried udder and do not care to. But you must give them credit for not wasting any parts of the animal!

Another recipe she talks about is how to stew ox palates. I know some people enjoy tongue of various animals but have you tried the palate? Here’s what she says to do with it, in case you’d like to…

To stew Ox Palates

Stew them very tender; which must be done by putting them into cold water, and let them stew very softly over a slow fire till they are tender, then take off the two skins, cut them in pieces, and put them either into your made-dish or soup; and cock’s-combs and artichoke-bottoms, cut small, and put into the made dish. Garnish your dishes with lemon, sweet-breads stewed, or white dishes, and fried for brown ones, and cut in little pieces.

A made-dish is one that combines meats and vegetables into one dish. Sweet-breads are the thymus of the calf or perhaps the pancreas which is apparently pretty tasty, but again it’s not something I’m interested in trying. And I know my loving, supportive, patient hubby would not want me to serve it to him, so that’s another reason to pick different recipes to adapt. Also, I think she means to use stewed sweetbreads for “for” white dishes and fried for brown ones.

What kind of meats have you tried that are not typical fare? Did you like it? Would you want to have it again?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions! Until next time!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

The second story in the A More Perfect Union historical romance series is one of my favorite ones. Poor Amy has some tough decisions to make…

Amy's ChoiceWhen Amy Abernathy’s childhood sweetheart, Benjamin Hanson, leaves to fight in the American War for Independence without a word of goodbye, Amy picks up the pieces of her heart and chooses independence. When Benjamin returns unexpectedly, Amy flees to the country to help her pregnant sister and protect her heart.

Benjamin Hanson knows he hurt Amy, but he also knows he can make it up to her after he completes his mission. Then he learns that Amy has been captured by renegade soldiers. Now Benjamin faces his own choice: free the sassy yet obstinate woman he’s never stopped loving or protect Charles Town from the vengeful British occupation.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1COKdqg

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/ZHT9Pl

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1zlf2Vk

iBooks: http://bit.ly/1FCoy5L

Google: http://bit.ly/1ocTIfL

Between the Lines: Ravens and Their Antics #birds #behavior #research #newrelease

 

A_Common_Raven
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Did you know that ravens have some very unique traits and characteristics? While working on my latest release, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, I had to dig into this species of bird. I started with the obvious things: their color and beak, the wing span, their claws. I knew they were black, with iridescent coloring around their head and neck. I didn’t realize they had such a strong beak. For a general overview, you can go here.

 

Some of the more curious facts I found out is how intelligent they are. Not only do they hide food by burying it so others don’t find it, but they also have been known to call wolves to tear open a carcass so they can eat it. I used this trait in my story because it mirrored the Thanksgiving meal Tara and her sisters planned to share with their family. A coming together to eat the same foods and spend time with each other.

It’s also interesting that they are a very playful species, and engage in aerobatic displays, make their own toys to play with, and even slide down snowbanks for fun. I think that’s pretty awesome!

One characteristic of ravens that I tried to reflect in the “touchstone” or test that Tara and Grant face in my story came from this observation: the ravens’ “aptitudes for solving problems individually and learning from each other reflect a flexible capacity for intelligent insight unusual among non-human animals.” Tara and Grant have to learn to trust each other in order to resolve their situation.

I want to go hiking on the Cumberland Plateau like I talked about in an earlier post. I’d like to see if I can find an unkindness and experience the sound of their croak and their yell as well as their wings for myself. Have you ever heard or seen ravens in their natural environment?

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

Now available!

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic.

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

B&N: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Kobo

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-kindle

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-UK

iBooks: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-iBooks

Tasty Tuesday: Potato Pudding #colonial #American #history #recipe #sidedish #whatsfordinner

Art of CookeryTasty Tuesday brings us to my adaptation of Potato Pudding from The Art of Cookery. The original recipe seems fairly straightforward until you consider the methods of cooking available then versus today. So let’s start with what Mrs. Glasse would have us do, shall we?

Boil two pounds of potatoes, and beat them in a mortar fine, beat in half a pound of melted butter, boil it half an hour, pour melted butter over it, with a glass of white wine, or the juice of a Seville orange, and throw sugar all over the pudding and dish.

The first stumbling block for me is that I do not own a mortar. But I do own an electric mixer that I use to make mashed potatoes for special occasions like holidays.

IMG_2150I’m going to guess that I used about one pound of potatoes, but to be honest, I did not weigh them. I used these four because I thought it would be enough for two to four servings, which it ended up being.

The second boiling of the potatoes would have been done in a tightly woven cloth placed in a kettle of boiling water over a fire. After thinking about the options, I decided to spoon the whipped potatoes IMG_2152into a casserole dish and then I could bake the final casserole instead of boiling it again.

Notice that she also blended butter, wine or the juice of a Seville orange, then threw sugar over everything, which was intended to counter the bitterness of the wine or orange. I chose to use butter and sweet orange juice to approximate the blend of flavors she was aiming for. My hubby is not fond of wine in sauces, so I didn’t choose to use it but feel free to try some if you’d prefer.

IMG_2154Be careful when you go to melt the butter! I put it in the microwave for what I thought was a short amount of time, but the butter ended up exploding. I had to clean up the mess and try again to achieve the desired result.

The resulting casserole was indeed a hit around here. It was fairly easy to make and again included only whole, fresh ingredients readily available at my local grocery store. I hope you try it and enjoy it as much as we did.

IMG_2157Ingredients

4 medium-large baking potatoes

4 T butter, melted

1 T butter, melted

¼ cup OJ

Instructions

Wash, peel and cut up the potatoes into large pieces

Cover with water in a saucepan and boil until just tender

Drain the water from the potatoes.

Add 4 T melted butter.

Beat with mixer until creamy but sticky

Put in a casserole dish and bake at 300 deg for 15 minutes.

Combine 1 T melted butter and ¼ cup OJ. Pour over casserole and warm through.

I think this may become a new favorite dish to make. What do you think about wine in the sauce? Should I have tried it anyway?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

The second book in the A More Perfect Union historical romance series, Amy’s Choice, continues the saga of women seeking personal independence during the American Revolution.

Amy's ChoiceWhen Amy Abernathy’s childhood sweetheart, Benjamin Hanson, leaves to fight in the American War for Independence without a word of goodbye, Amy picks up the pieces of her heart and chooses independence. When Benjamin returns unexpectedly, Amy flees to the country to help her pregnant sister and protect her heart.

Benjamin Hanson knows he hurt Amy, but he also knows he can make it up to her after he completes his mission. Then he learns that Amy has been captured by renegade soldiers. Now Benjamin faces his own choice: free the sassy yet obstinate woman he’s never stopped loving or protect Charles Town from the vengeful British occupation.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1COKdqg

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/ZHT9Pl

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1zlf2Vk

iBooks: http://bit.ly/1FCoy5L

Google: http://bit.ly/1ocTIfL

Serendipity related to writing The Touchstone of Raven Hollow #writerslife #newrelease #paranormal #romance

Do you believe in serendipity or coincidence? Do we have a brand new idea, or have we just picked up on a subtle repetition of a word or image that then wiggles into our conscious thought? I’m always intrigued how once you focus on a new topic or area of interest, you start seeing it everywhere. Was it there already surrounding me, or did the new word or image start appearing after the fact?

It’s also true of new places, I have found. As in, if I, out of the blue, need to go to a town or take a different route to go to a familiar place, suddenly I need to go back that same way or to that new place two or three more times in quick succession. I don’t know why, or how that happens, but it’s been true for me all of my life.

For example, when my daughter joined the local Pony Club, the leaders suggested a site for a new competition they wanted to start hosting. I was invited along to visit and assess the suitability the place, a new-to-me part of the area we lived in that was far out in the country northwest of the nearest town. Within a week or two, I had to go back through that same area on an errand. And then I made a friend who happened to live in the same vicinity. I discovered new roads and ways to get from one place to another. After a while, though, I rarely go through there as I have few reasons to do so any longer. Things just seem to come in clusters for me.

The same kind of thing happened while writing my latest release, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow. Once I chose to use ravens in the title, and then in the story as a symbol and allusion to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven,” suddenly ravens were everywhere!

One day, while writing Touchstone, an email popped into my inbox from the Audubon Society. Now, I’m not a member and did not subscribe to their mailings, so this was rather surprising to me. Even more so was the fact that the lead article included how to tell the difference between crows and ravens! Naturally, I had to go find out what they had to say, and they even had the sound of the raven’s croak. If you’re curious, you can listen to the difference yourself here. Useful details for my story!

When I settled on the title of The Touchstone of Raven Hollow I didn’t think about whether the state park where the story is set on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee would have a population of ravens. I figured I’d have to make one up as part of the enchantment of the hollow. But then when I was researching the wildlife and birds of the state, I came across the fact that ravens do live there. And in the area of the plateau where Grant takes Tara hiking. How cool, right? I thought I’d have to invent an “unkindness” or flock of ravens living up there. But nope! Hubby and I will go hiking up there this summer when the weather is nicer. I wonder how closely my descriptions match the real hills and vales, based on my memory of hiking in other forests and the online pictures and descriptions. Should be interesting to find out! I’ll probably blog about that trip, so stay tuned.

I know a lot of people do not believe in coincidence. I do to an extent. We open ourselves to a new possibility and then we see/hear the themes and symbols around us through a new filter. How about you? Have you experienced this phenomenon I’m talking about? Do you believe in coincidence?

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Also, I’ll be sharing one chapter each month in 2017 of a new historical romance novella, Elizabeth’s Hope, the prequel to my A More Perfect Union historical romance series, with my subscribers. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit my Website for more on my books and upcoming events.

The Touchstone of Raven Hollow (Secrets of Roseville Book 3) is available now! Grab your copy today!

The_Touchstone_of_Raven_Hollow_600x900He dug for the truth and found her magic.

Tara Golden has hidden her healing power all her life. But occasionally, she uses her abilities on people passing through town, sure they’d never figure out what saved them. Now a tall, sexy geologist is asking questions she doesn’t want to face, and he isn’t going to take no for an answer. There’s no way she would reveal her abilities and her gifted sisters for a fling.

The latest medical tests divulge geologist Grant Markel’s fatal condition is cured, but the scientist within him won’t accept it’s a miracle. When he meets the sexy, mystical witch who may hold the answer to his quest, he’s determined to prove she’s full of smoke and mirrors despite their mutual attraction.

When they are trapped in an enchanted valley, Tara must choose between her magical truth or his scientific beliefs. Can she step from the shadows to claim her true powers before it’s too late?

B&N: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-BN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Kobo

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-kindle

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-AU

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-CA

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-Amazon-UK

iBooks: http://bit.ly/Touchstone-iBooks