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: 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

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

Between the Lines: The Life and Art of Vinnie Ream #womenshistory #American #history #artist #sculpture

Researching for each of the girls’ stories in Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure led me across America. I traveled a good bit—exploring sites in Maryland, Virginia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, New York, Georgia, and Alabama, to name a few—but was not able to visit every site I would have liked to have reached. Mainly out west and northwest, but other places as well. The story of Lavinia Ream, known by those close to her as Vinnie, is one such example.

Lavinia Ellen Ream, known as Vinnie, was born September 25, 1847, in Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve vacationed in Madison but did not have a chance to search for any sites associated with her. Partly because I went long after I had written Hometown Heroines, and partly because it was a family vacation for Christmas.

Vinnie’s earliest playmates were Winnebago Indian children because there were few if any other white children to play with. In fact, her sister Cynthia Ann Ream, known as Mary, was born in 1844 in Madison, Wisconsin. Mary was one of the first white girls to be born in the Wisconsin area. The Winnebagos taught Vinnie how to draw and paint, a skill she put to very good use throughout her lifetime. I wonder what games they played and how this experience affected Vinnie’s view of diverse peoples she met.

The following is an excerpt from Hometown Heroines, the biographical facts I included:

Vinnie’s childhood was spent moving around quite a bit. Her father was a surveyor, and so would travel to find work. They lived at various times in Madison, Wisconsin; Little Rock and Ft. Smith, Arkansas; St. Joseph, Missouri; Wyandotte and Leavenworth, Kansas; and Washington, D.C.

When they moved to D.C. at the beginning of the Civil War, they settled in a cottage at 325 B Street North. Her father joined a Capitol guard unit. Her brother Bob had enlisted in Woodruff’s artillery regiment. To earn money to support the family, Vinnie, her mother, and her sister, all sewed epaulets for the officers uniforms.

After studying sculpture with Clark Mills for a while, she began making medallion reliefs of politicians. Then she had the idea of creating a bust of Lincoln. She was given permission by Lincoln only because she was poor, like he had been when he was younger.

I came for half an hour every day. I was the merest slip of a child, weighing less than ninety pounds; and the contrast between the raw-boned man and me was indeed great. I sat demurely in my corner and begged Mr. Lincoln not to allow me to disturb him.

She went to the White House frequently, watching him. Trying to capture his personality in clay.

I think that history is particularly correct in writing Lincoln down as the man of sorrow. The one great, lasting, all-dominating impression that I have always carried of Lincoln has been that of unfathomable sorrow, and it was this that I tried to put into my statue.

The death of Lincoln caused his memory to be locked in hers forever.

Vinnie Ream Lincoln StatueThe success of the statue that I subsequently made was attributed to its trueness to the actual Lincoln. My ability to produce it was unquestionably due to those half-hours in the quiet of the President’s office, and to the searing in of the image by the great tragedy.

In April 1866, Vinnie was encouraged to apply for the commission to create a life-size marble statue of Lincoln. With help from friends, a petition was written and circulated, and signed by many of the most powerful men in Washington. The commission was granted to her on July 28, 1866, and the contract for the statue was written and signed on August 30, 1866.

I enjoyed visiting D.C. and seeing her work in person in the Rotunda. While I was there, I also went to see her statue of Admiral Farragut. Here’s more on it from Hometown Heroines:

Vinnie Ream Farragut StatueVinnie was commissioned, again after much debate, to create a statue of Admiral David Glasgow Farragut. The contract for the statue was written and signed January 28, 1875. The statue was cast from the bronze propeller of his flagship, the Hartford, in which he had achieved his best success. The statue, resting on a base made out of Maine granite, stands on Farragut Square, on K Street between 16th and 17th Streets in Washington, D.C. It faces south and stands ten feet high, with Farragut holding a marine glass in his left hand, and resting his left foot atop a block and tackle. Vinnie was paid twenty thousand dollars to create the statue.

During the six years she spent making the Farragut, First Lieutenant Richard Hoxie proposed to her. She refused him, saying her work must come first. Only after Mrs. Farragut advised her to go ahead and marry, that the statue would wait, did Vinnie accept the proposal. She married Lieutenant Richard Leveridge Hoxie on May 28, 1878. Lieutenant Hoxie was assigned to the Corps of Engineers, United States Army.

The Farragut was unveiled and dedicated on April 25, 1881, amidst much ceremony. An account of the day was found in a local paper:

It was an inspiring sight. Besides the vast multitude of civilians; the host of soldiers and sailors, in their glittering uniforms; the rainbow hues of the Spring appareling of thousands of women; the decorated houses surrounding the square, glinting with flags and filled with bright faces from basement to roof–all were framed in the delicate interlacing of the young leaved trees and mounted by the snowy tracery of the delicate clouds, that fluttered like feathers against the warm blue of the April sky. President Garfield’s speech was happy, as his speeches always are.

Vinnie’s art and sculpture were not her only talents, though. She also wrote songs and poetry. Others dedicated their songs and poetry to her. Her life was filled with people who admired her enough to seek her out and praise her art and talents. Her example inspires me to live my life the best I can, and to strive to create stories that touch my readers in some way.

After she died at her Washington home in 1914, she was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Her husband erected a monument to her in 1915. Here’s more on it from my book:

VinnieReamMonument-ArlingtonCemeteryBrigadier General Richard Hoxie had a monument built in 1915 to Vinnie in her memory. It stands in Arlington Cemetery, in Section 3, on Miles Drive. The statue is a bronze likeness of her marble Sappho statue. His sense of loss is felt in the inscription “Words that would praise thee are impotent” engraved in the bronze plaque in the base along with her bas-relief profile. A stone bench faces the monument, inviting visitors to linger, as Vinnie would have wanted.

When I visited her grave, I sat down on that bench and thought about all this wonderful woman had accomplished in her life. I thought about how much her husband mourned her but also how much he loved her. I decided to try to include those ponderings in the short story I wrote for the book. Then when I got up, distracted by my musings, I actually left behind my Dayrunner calendar/address book. Which then my brother-in-law had to track down and return to me, but that’s another story you can read here.

Vinnie Ream Display in Vinita OKI wish I had been able to visit so many places associated with Vinnie. I did manage to get to Vinita, Oklahoma, though, and it’s small display of her art, guitar, and other memorabilia. The town itself is named for Vinnie by her friend Col. Elias C. Boudinot, a Cherokee. She had some fascinating friends, didn’t she?

Each story in Hometown Heroines includes a list of places you can go to related to the girl’s life and accomplishments. Have you read the inspiring and amazing stories of these girls who lived in the 1800s in America? Have you traveled to any of the parks, monuments, or statues dedicated to them? Would you like to?

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.

Literary Classics International Book Awards - Youth Award Winning Book
Literary Classics International Book Awards – Youth Award Winning Book

Hometown Heroines won the 2014 Gold Medal for Best Gender Specific Young Adult Book from Children’s Literary Classics and makes a great gift! Here’s more about it:

During the 1800s, daring and courageous girls across America left their unique mark on history.

Milly Cooper galloped 9 miles through hostile Indian Territory to summon help when Fort Cooper was under attack.

Belle Boyd risked her life spying for the Rebels during the Civil War.

Kate Shelly, when she was 15, crawled across a nearly washed-out railroad bridge during a ferocious thunderstorm to warn the next train.

Lucille Mulhall, age 14, outperformed cowboys to become the World’s First Famous Cowgirl.

These are just a few of the inspiring true stories inside Hometown Heroines—American Girls who faced danger and adversity and made a difference in their world.

B&N: http://bit.ly/2em4lh9

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2eNm5Ap

Amazon ebook: http://amzn.to/1nY0qXH

iBooks: http://apple.co/2em5Iw5

Google: http://bit.ly/2fFEQ6w

Tasty Tuesday: Adapting American 18th Century #Recipes #cooking #history #whatsfordinner

I’ve been talking a lot lately about my paranormal romances, but don’t forget my first love is historical fiction! As I wrote the 5 books in the A More Perfect Union series, and am writing some other historical fiction stories to share with my readers soon (I hope!), I found myself wondering about what folks enjoyed eating during the 1700s when my series takes place. They didn’t have processed foods and some of the other not-so-healthy options we have today.

So on a recent research trip to Virginia, I came across two cooking books that contain “receipts,” or what we call recipes today, for colonial era meals and desserts. I figured I’d try some of them. Maybe they would prove healthier alternatives. Something new and different to tempt our palates.

Art of CookeryThen one night my husband and I were watching the 2009 movie Julie and Julia and it dawned on me. I could do the same sort of thing as the Amy Adams character, Julie, did but on a modified basis. Julie, after all, decided to make all of Julia Child’s dishes. I’m not that dedicated! Doing so would take all my time, and I need to be writing after all. And after reading through the contents of both books, I knew there were limits as to what my husband would be willing to try. Me, too, but I’m more adventurous than he is.

The two books are The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy; Excelling any ever yet published by Mrs. Hannah Glasse, and Revolutionary Cooking: Over 200 Recipes Inspired by Colonial Meals by Virginia T. Elverson and Mary Ann Revolutionary CookingMcLanahan.

My plan over the next 6 months is to try to make a variety of sauces, meats and fish, vegetables, and maybe some of the desserts. The two books together provide me context and equivalencies so I can more easily adapt the ingredients and quantities needed. If I can adapt the desserts to reduce the quantity, since many of the receipts seem to make quite a large amount of cake/pie/cookies. Specifically, here’s what I’ve laid out to attempt to adapt to something that my hubby and I – and my readers – might enjoy:

May 9 Veggies and cooking techniques
May 16 Stewed spinach and eggs
May 23 Potato pudding
May 30 Meats and cooking techniques
Jun 6 Brown gravy
Jun 13 Oyster sauce
Jun 20 Force-meat balls
Jun 27 Scotch collops
Jul 4 Beef collops
Jul 11 Lamb pie
Jul 18 Fish types and cooking techniques
Jul 25 Salmon – broiled, and baked
Aug 1 Salmon au Court-Bouillon
Aug 8 Lobsters
Aug 15 Fowl and other birds
Aug 22 Brown Fricasey with chicken
Aug 29 Roast chicken with chestnuts
Sep 5 Stewing chickens
Sep 12 Duck with green peas
Sep 19 Collops and eggs
Sep 26 Salmagundy
Oct 3 Apple pudding
Oct 10 Apricot pudding
Oct 17 Stewed pears
Oct 24 Pound cake

The cooking techniques described in the two books are very different from today’s abilities with our ranges and ovens, mixers, and even cooking surfaces to work on. As I work through these receipts, I will talk about what the differences are. For example, boiling a pudding then meant putting it into a closely woven fabric and tying it tight at the top, then lowering it into a kettle of boiling water over an open fire. Obviously, that is not a method I’d employ in my own kitchen, so I’d make some adjustments and tell you how it worked out.

AMPU Covers-4Have you read any of the A More Perfect Union series? The latest story, Elizabeth’s Hope, will release in time for Christmas and is actually the introduction to the rest of the series. In order, the rest of them are Emily’s Vow, Amy’s Choice, Samantha’s Secret, and Evelyn’s Promise. But as noted below, I’m sharing a chapter of Elizabeth’s Hope each month with my newsletter subscribers, including a link to all the chapters new subscribers may have missed up to that point.

So are you with me? Shall we try some new wholesome, whole foods from centuries old recipes? I think it will be an interesting and enlightening journey to make. I wonder whether the lady characters in my historical romance series would be surprised at how cooking has changed since their time.

What do you think? I hope you’ll take this adventure with me! I’m heading to the kitchen now…

Betty

Elizabeth's HopeP.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 most recent release in the A More Perfect Union series is Evelyn’s Promise (January 2016). Here’s more about her story…

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.

B&N: http://bit.ly/1SCcwTJ

Kobo: http://bit.ly/1nW5AEd

Amazon ebook: http://amzn.to/1nifyz4

iBooks: http://apple.co/1UVyy1p

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

Between the Lines: Fay Fuller, 1st Woman to Climb Mt. Rainier #research #women #history

 

Fay Peak-Visit Rainier
Image courtesy  VisitRainier.com

Have you heard of Fay Peak in the Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state? I had not, until I started researching the girls in my award-winning Hometown Heroines: True Stories of Bravery, Daring, and Adventure. Edwina Fay Fuller embodies all three of those qualities: brave, daring, and adventurous.

 

Fay Fuller lived during a time in American history when women tended to be relegated to certain pigeon holes for appropriate behavior and activities. Only, Fay didn’t adhere to the restrictions. In fact, she decided to buck the system by not only riding her horse astride, but also by wearing men’s clothing for her most daring and adventurous escapade. See, Fay was 17 years old when she first climbed partway up Mt. Rainier. Three years later, she reached the summit. The first woman ever.

She climbed despite swelling she suffered from a charcoal mixture she wore on her face to attempt to prevent sunburn. She endured the pain on her face and on her wrist where the skin literally peeled off as a result of the failed mix. When they camped overnight in a steam cave on their way back down, she became sick from the smell of sulfur combined with the extreme cold and her exhaustion. Yet she had achieved her goal and would always carry that sweet feeling of accomplishment inside.

Fay inspires me through her commitment, determination, and sheer grit. When offered a hand by one of the men in the climbing party, she declined, preferring to reach the summit under her own power. The following day, though, the perilous nature of the trail made it necessary for her to permit a rope be tied to her waist in case of a slip or fall. A concession she reluctantly agreed to.

Her can-do spirit and belief in her own abilities humble me. She stood on her own two feet, literally and figuratively, and worked through obstacles to achieve her dream. If I ever get out to Washington state, I would love to climb up Fay Peak. I’d feel as though I’d followed in her footsteps, if only to a lower peak. I have no delusions of possessing the strength to climb to the summit of Mt. Rainier. Believe me!

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.

Literary Classics International Book Awards - Youth Award Winning Book
Literary Classics International Book Awards – Youth Award Winning Book

During the 1800s, daring and courageous girls across America left their unique mark on history.

Milly Cooper galloped 9 miles through hostile Indian Territory to summon help when Fort Cooper was under attack.

Belle Boyd risked her life spying for the Rebels during the Civil War.

Kate Shelly, when she was 15, crawled across a nearly washed-out railroad bridge during a ferocious thunderstorm to warn the next train.

Lucille Mulhall, age 14, outperformed cowboys to become the World’s First Famous Cowgirl.

These are just a few of the inspiring true stories inside Hometown Heroines—American Girls who faced danger and adversity and made a difference in their world.

 

B&N: http://bit.ly/2em4lh9

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2eNm5Ap

Amazon ebook: http://amzn.to/1nY0qXH

iBooks: http://apple.co/2em5Iw5

Google: http://bit.ly/2fFEQ6w

Between the Lines: Musicals and Memories in Haunted Melody #PNR #romance #music #research

I have to confess that I am addicted to musicals. There, I said it. When I first heard about the newest one, La La Land, I turned to my husband and told him I wanted to see it on the big screen, not as a pay-per-view movie on our home TV. I really longed to see the movie in the larger than life cinematic experience. As soon as it came out and we could align our schedules, we went to enjoy two hours of escape from reality.

The movie brought joy to my heart by its combination of story, singing, dancing, and the sweeping musical score. The story centers on an actress struggling to be discovered, to reach the level of recognition she dreams of attaining. Like Emma Stone said in a recent Time interview, the story reminds us of “the hope and importance of creativity, of still dreaming even when it feels like hope is gone.”

I understand what she means. I’m creative with my stories and enjoy singing, playing my guitar (when I have time), and crocheting. When I contemplate my career as an author and the state of publishing and readership, sometimes all I have is hope. Hope that people will read and enjoy my stories, and then share with their friends and family to help me build my fan base. Hope that my writing will continue to bring a few hours of escape from reality for my readers. Hope that I’ll be a best-selling author one day in the not-too-distant future; that’s my dream. I have no control over achieving my dream because I can’t make people buy my books. All I can do is write the best story I can and put it out there for others to read and judge its merits. That’s where my focus must be. Writing the best story in my ability. But what would happen if I didn’t have hope?

Paulette O’Connell, in my upcoming release Haunted Melody, has forgotten about her love of singing. How she used to sing in the school choir and then in a small band for a while, pursuing her own dreams. Until she accidentally summons the ghost of her grandfather to the Twin Oaks Plantation. More importantly, it’s only after she meets Zak Markel that she slowly rediscovers her inner joy and begins to sing again. She remembers how important music had been in her life and determines to let it take a part in her present and future life. Indeed, singing plays a key role in sending her grandfather’s ghost back where he came from. Singing restores hope as a result of new love for Paulette, both Zak and her baby.

Musicals are one of my go-to movies. I really love the idea of breaking into song when strong emotions are in play. Song and story make a powerful combination, evoking so many memories and feelings all while being entertained.

What about you? Do you enjoy musicals? Why or why not?

Thanks for reading!

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.

Haunted Melody is now available for pre-order and will release on March 28, 2017. Here’s more about the story…

haunted_melody_600x900Paulette O’Connell needs to build her home decorating business in order to give her unborn child a stable home. While exploring the mysterious attic of the antebellum plantation where she lives, she accidentally summons her grandfather’s ghost. But he won’t leave until she figures out why she needed him in the first place, putting her plans in serious jeopardy.

Zak Markel has been searching for the last ingredient to create the Elixir of Life he hopes will save his brother’s eyesight. But he discovers the woman of his dreams in the smart and beautiful Paulette, distracting him from his focus at the worst possible time, even though she staunchly refuses to allow him past her defenses.

Can he convince Paulette to open her mind to possibilities and follow her heart to true happiness before it’s too late?

Amazon USA: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody

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

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

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

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

Kobo: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-K

iTunes: http://bit.ly/HauntedMelody-iTunes