Friday, March 30, 2012

Campfire Fridays - Colter's Pot

My wife informed me last week that she believed that many of the authors/readers of western romance novels are well versed in Dutch oven cooking. Well that just plain makes sense. When she asked me to write something each week for her, I just figured she was politely trying to get me to improve my “communication skills” (when have I heard that before). But I do wonder how many people that read this are proficient with campfire cooking and are just looking for another good idea. Some are no doubt just learning, and still others might just be tempted to try it (well what are you waiting for?). In any case I’m going to try to satisfy all parties today.
I have not read my wife’s books. Sorry dear, just not my thing. She has let me read sections and asked for my perspective at times. But I read adventure stuff, about tough guys that brave the elements to conquer mountains and caves and… wait…that sounds like my wife’s books. Well one scene in her book recounts a story that parallels a tale about John Colter, and a certain escape from his Indian captors. Well here’s the trivial pursuit tie-in to campfire cooking for the experts.
When John Colter died in 1813 he apparently didn’t have a will. His estate was sold off and the executors list included “to John Simpson- one Dutch Oven- $4.00”. What a deal! That is until you realize that in 1813, $4 was the equivalent of about a week’s wages for most people. Can you imagine paying that for one pot! It goes to show just how valuable those pots must have been on Lewis & Clark’s expedition. There, that’s the little tid-bit for the skilled campfire cook. Part of the fun when cooking outdoors are the yarns that you spin (especially if you can share some of Colter’s colorful history alongside it)!

Here is a simple idea for a really great dessert dish. You can scale this up or down, but I use my 10” shallow pot for this one. More than enough for the family and maybe enough to share with camp neighbors as you visit. Grease the bottom and sides of the pot with butter while it’s cold. Now dump in a big can (I don’t read the labels so I can’t say for sure how big… just the large one) of peaches or two of the small cans. Sprinkle some cinnamon on it and then dump about ¾ of a box of spice cake mix, or carrot cake( or whatever is floating around in the back of the pantry when packing for your trip) around all over the peaches and sauce. Now cut several thin slices of butter and place evenly all around the top of the mix. By the way, do not mix the cake mix up with the peaches. It needs to be on top of the juices and it will absorb them as it cooks. Put the lid on and place about 8 coals on top and bottom and let it cook. I have really never got a good “read” on this one for time. You just need to watch it, and eventually most of that cake mix will crust up nicely. Congratulations you’ve just made a great tasting, quick and dirty peach cobbler. Enjoy. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Teaser Tuesday 3/27/12

This snippet is from Yellowstone Heart Song

A foul, sour odor filled the air, and she curled her nose in protest. She knew immediately what it meant. Her eyes darted around frantically as her legs went rubbery from the jolt of adrenaline that flooded her system. She spotted the carcass of a partially eaten elk half-buried in dirt, confirming her worst fears.
“Oh, crap!” Her feet remained rooted to the ground even as her brain told her to get the hell out of the area. When she finally willed her legs to move, a huge grizzly came charging at her from the woods. The beast let out a loud roar, baring huge yellow teeth as drool hung in long strands down its mouth. The breeze carried the stench of rotten flesh that emanated from the predator’s jaws, and Aimee backed up quicker. Hopefully the bear was just bluffing, and it would realize she wasn’t any threat to its food. Her heart pounded violently and her whole body shook.
Stay calm. Don’t turn and run or you’re dead. She had to force herself to heed her own words while every survival instinct in her body screamed at her to run away as fast as possible. She’d gladly give her right arm at the moment for a can of bear spray.
The bruin stopped its charge. It scratched at the ground with enormous paws, moving its head from side to side. Its large nose twitched back and forth, sniffing the air. The bear huffed several times, and then let out another earsplitting roar.
 Realizing the grizzly geared up for another attack , her eyes widened. She stumbled backwards, nearly tripping on a rock. Just as she envisioned huge claws ripping her apart, the ground suddenly dropped out from under her feet. Her arms flailed wildly and she groped for any kind of hold on a rock or protruding tree root. Her throat tightened, and her jaw clenched. Her efforts prevented a complete free fall, but the downward momentum proved too great to get a solid grip on any object. Her ribs jutted against unyielding rocks, knocking the air from her lungs. Roots and small trees cut into her arms and hands.  When would she stop falling? It felt like an eternity, like she’d been sinking all her life. Her limbs became numb to the sensation of slamming against hard rocks. She stopped hearing the debris falling along with her. Her momentum increased, and her stomach rose to her throat. The sensation of floating through the air, then a sudden hard impact. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Campfire Fridays - Pizza!

For the longest time, I kept a picture of my youngest son eating breakfast on my cellphone wallpaper. Every time I would turn it on, there he sat in his red hoodie in the cold morning air, eating breakfast. He looked very happy to be enjoying his campfire cinnamon rolls. Simple fare is 10 times better when eaten in the right surroundings.

A great thing about cooking meals in a dutch oven is that you generally have only one pot to clean-up (unless you LIKE cleaning dishes when camping… I don’t). The fact is though that sometimes the kids (and I) want something that just isn’t normally feasible while your camping (cue the whining in the background). For this I have a

solution. Pizza and beer. Well at least I’ll enjoy the beer. But the largest dutch ovens I’ve ever seen (and certainly can’t afford to buy) were 16” across. That just won’t do when you’re trying to cook enough pizza to feed four. The real “trick” here is to load the oven with more than one pizza at a time. My favorite oven is a 12” wide and about 6” deep and it will easily hold two pizzas.
If you haven’t already got a lid holder or a trivet, now is the time to. They come in handy for more than just holding the lid. They can in fact be used to stack pizzas. 

Here’s how:

By now I know the fire is lit and the oven is being gently heated above it. The dough is pulled (or rolled if you must… you sure didn’t bring that pre-made Boboli stuff did you??) and you’re ready to go. The pizza crust on top will: a) droop into the lower pizza, and b) NEVER get “crusty” if you don’t cook it first. I use a touch of oil and actually fry it just a little. Start by putting the first crust into the bottom of the oven and cover the lid with coals, start with about 8-10 coals on the bottom.  You need to let this crust cook pretty well before you extract it because it does need to be able to hold some shape later.  When that crust is done, remove it and build your 2nd (or 1st…. however you view the world) pizza in the bottom of the oven. Now, be brave here…. Place the lid holder on that pizza (gasp). Yes it will make a mark but trust me … all is OK. At this point you can use foil, but a better option if you can plan ahead, is to cut out a round piece of heavy screen or some kind of mesh (available at any hardware or home improvement store)and place that on the lid holder. Now build the 2nd, 1st whatever, pizza and cover the oven. At this point re-fresh the coals under the oven, and maybe remove half the coals from the top. In 10-15 minutes the top pizza will be done. Remove the oven from the coals, take out the top pizza, and return every coal you have to the top of the re-covered oven. Don’t heat the bottom any more.  
While your family enjoys pizza, and you enjoy the beer, the bottom pizza is browning nicely on top and will be ready to serve  just as they finish the first. Remove that lid holder and screen, and voila… two pizzas from one oven, and easy (easier anyway) clean-up, and that desire by the kids for “fun” and “regular” food is satisfied (at least until tomorrow night). 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays 3/20/12

Today's teaser is from my WIP, Yellowstone Dawn. 

Their eyes met. Josh studied her face. Her skin was pale from the cold, and her eyes had dark circles underneath them. He wished he could start a fire to offer more warmth. Her layers of blankets would have to be enough for the night.
“What’s your name,” he asked slowly.
“Danica. Danica Jensen. But my friends call me Dani. Or, the Shoshone family who took me in …who I traveled with, called me Kumaa ekon nawipin. I really don’t know what that means. Maybe you do.”
Josh couldn’t decide whether to frown, or laugh at the name The People had given her. How did she know he would understand Shoshone? How did she know so much about him? The black hair and his bronze skin gave away the Indian part of his parentage. But how did she know that part was Shoshone? Perhaps she was only guessing. She had said maybe he’d know.
“Well? Do you know what it means?” she pressed, when he didn’t answer. He scrutinized her face. Rather than look away from his stare, her eyes narrowed.
“Yeah, I think the name probably suits you,” he drawled slowly.
She glared at him.  “You’re not going to tell me,” she accused. “Fine. It doesn’t matter now anyways. They’re all dead.” Her voice cracked, despite her effort to appear indifferent. She pulled the blankets more firmly around herself, and she shifted her body awkwardly to lean against the trunk of the tree. Her eyes closed, and her face contorted in a grimace. Josh wondered again if she was injured. He pulled his own blanket around his shoulders to ward off the cold.
“Miss Jensen, what do you know about that family of Shoshone that was massacred a few miles south of here?”
Her eyes flew open. “You know about them?”
“Your tracks from the site where they got killed led me here to you,” he said slowly, studying her face for her reaction.
“They were good people,” she whispered. She sniffed, and swiped a hasty hand over her eyes. “They helped me out last summer. I needed to get back to Virginia City, but I lost my way in the wilderness. I think they were taking me in that general direction, but it’s taken them almost a year.” She laughed softly.
“You’ve been with them for nearly a year?”
“Close to it. I can’t remember.” She shrugged.
Josh frowned. Her vague answers only begged for more questions. What was a white woman doing traveling with a family of mountain Shoshone?

Also, check out an interview with Elk Runner, a character from Yellowstone Heart Song, here 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Critique Partners

The best advice I ever received as a writer – "find a critique partner"

Today I want to say thank you to a very special person in my writing career. Her name is Carol Spradling, and she has been my critique partner for almost a year now. If it hadn’t been for her, I would have never published any of my books.

When I began writing my first novel, Yellowstone Heart Song (YHS), back in 2010, it was purely for my own enjoyment. At the time, I was reading about a book every other day. When the idea for YHS popped into my head during the drive home from Yellowstone National Park in 2009, I thought perhaps I could write the story down. I never took the time to actually do it. Fast forward one year to 2010, and another long drive home from Montana to California. The story popped back into my head, and when we arrived home, I actually sat down and began writing.

It took me about nine months to complete the book. I abandoned it for about two months, because I couldn’t come up with an ending. When I finally wrote one, I hated it. So it sat for another few months before I revised about one-third of the last part of the book to write an ending I was actually satisfied with. In March of 2011, I entered a contest, simply because I wanted to get feedback on the story. No one in my family knew I had written anything. The thought of trying to get published never entered my mind.  I just wanted someone to read it and give me their opinion. My judges’ comments came back, and two out of the three seemed to like the idea of the story, but told me without actually saying it, that my writing was horrible. I revised the beginning of the story based on the comments I received, and entered another contest. Boy was I surprised when I received the email that I had finaled! When I received my score sheets back, my harshest judge left me with this comment: ”find a critique partner.”

It was the best advice I received from any of the judges. But how does one find a critique partner? I scoured the internet. I had no clue what and where to look. Finally, I stumbled upon the Wild Rose Press websites author submission page, and saw that they had a forum where one could basically advertise for a critique partner. So I posted a small blurb of my book, and asked if anyone would be willing to critique for a complete novice.

Carol Spradling responded, and I hit a gold mine.  With a pounding heart, I waited for her to send back a chapter or two, curious what she might say. In her email, she said she loved the story, but she saw the problems. My heart sank when I saw all the red writing in the body of the manuscript, but as I read the comments, I could see she was spot on with everything. Her comments were always positive, with suggestions for improvement, pointing out what worked and what didn’t, and asking questions about a character or situation I hadn’t even thought of, or it was clear in my mind but obviously not to the reader.
Over the weeks, Carol taught me how to show vs tell, how to quit head-hopping and stay with one character’s point of view for at least an entire scene, cause and effect, passive vs active writing, and how to be more descriptive in my writing. She never wrote the words for me, even when I practically begged her to tell me what to write. She never made it easy for me, and only guided me with well-placed questions or suggestions.

Once she finished critiquing the entire manuscript, I just stared at it. For months. I decided to ignore it completely, and began plotting and writing what I considered to be simply a sequel to Yellowstone Heart Song. The idea of a series never entered my mind.  I enjoyed my interactions with Carol so much, I didn’t want that to end. So I began writing Yellowstone Redemption, sending her chapters at a time to critique. I told her I was merely practicing my new-found writing skills that she’d been pounding into my brain over the last few months.

As the book got longer and longer, she kept asking how my revisions were coming along for YHS. Ummm…..hadn’t even started on them yet. She kindly reminded me me over the course of the next few months about getting them done, hinting that I needed to think about querying with publishers. I kept putting it off. Finally, after YR was almost done, I sat down to the grueling task of rewrites for YHS. It took me weeks to get them done, and she critiqued the entire ms again! Sigh. Another round of revisions. By this time, I was writing Book 3, Yellowstone Awakening.

Right after Thanksgiving of 2011, Carol point blank told me I needed to stop writing, and finally pursue publishing the first book. I was scared to death of the prospect. We’d talked about how daunting it is to even get your book noticed by a publisher. I’d heard about publishing independently, doing it on my own. It sounded more and more appealing to me, and that’s what I ultimately decided to do. And proudly, I finally got her to join me in this venture. (she kicked and screamed about leaving her publisher to go indie, just as much as I kicked and screamed about publishing at all).

So, I know this story got a bit long-winded. Bottom line is, without Carol’s help and encouragement, and believing in my story, I wouldn’t even be writing this blog entry today. So, thank you Carol, for your teachings, your guidance, and most of all, your friendship over the course of the last year. May we continue our journey to self-publishing fame.

Please visit Carol’s website, and check out her historical romance novels. Her writing is witty, engaging, and thoroughly enjoyable. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cowboy Kisses

I am happy and excited to announce that a new group of western romance authors have gotten together for a joint venture to talk about what we enjoy most - romance set in the "west", whether historical, contemporary, or paranormal. The idea was born from discussions on the Amazon MOA forum, which was started by a reader who loves the western romance genre. (Thanks, Maggie!)
Ginger Simpson has graciously offered her existing blog, Cowboy Kisses, to us.
Please come join me and check out some great authors, and superb books.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Free Kindle Book!

I wanted to announce that Yellowstone Heart Song will be FREE on Amazon tomorrow, March 15, and Friday, March 16. I decided to enroll in Amazon's select program to try and increase awareness of my books. 
                               Get your free copy here (on 3/15 and 3/16)

What readers have said about Yellowstone Heart Song:

I stumbled on this book  and took a chance. Having loved Yellowstone since I first visited it when I was 16 it sounded like something I may enjoy.
Wow!! I have found a new author to add to my favorites. This book drew me in right from the start and wouldn't let go. The characters have a lot of depth and as the reader I felt the entire range of emotions they were feeling. What an ending! I can't wait to read the rest of the books in the series. (Sarah L from Romancing the Book)

Even though I haven't got around to writing the review yet, I just finished the first book and wow! It was AMAZING! (Sarah Intidam, Sara's View book blog)

I loved this book! It had me holding my breath, crying, laughing and I couldn't put it down. I am sorry it has ended. (Shirl, Amazon review)

I love time travel stories and Peggy makes it a believable happening. For me, my fantacy reading has to "feel" real and Peggy has that knack. I rate her right up there with Marlys Millhiser's "The Mirror." (Arlene, reader)

Book 1 in the Yellowstone Romance Series

Nurse and avid backpacker Aimee Donovan is offered the opportunity of a lifetime. She encounters a patient who tells her he can send her two hundred years into the past to spend three months in the rugged Yellowstone wilderness at the dawn of the mountain man era. The only requirement: she cannot tell anyone that she’s from the future. 

How did a white woman suddenly appear in the remote Rocky Mountain wilderness? Trapper Daniel Osborne’s first instinct is to protect this mysterious and unconventional woman from the harsh realities of his mountains. While he fights his growing attraction to her, he is left frustrated by her lies and secrecy. 

Daniel shows Aimee a side of Yellowstone she’s never experienced. She is torn between her feelings for him, and exposing a secret that will destroy everything he holds as truth. As her three months come to an end, she is faced with a dilemma: return to her own time, or stay with the man who opened her eyes to a whole new world. When the decision is made for her, both their lives will be changed forever.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

A new feature I'm going to try is called Teaser Tuesday, where I'd like to share a paragraph or two from either a published title in the Yellowstone Romance Series, or something from my current WIP.
Today, I chose a short blip from my current WIP, Yellowstone Dawn, Book 4 in the Yellowstone Romance Series.
For WIP blips, these are raw, unedited sections, and may change as I go through final critiques and edits, and may appear differently in the completed version of the book.

Danica turned her head towards him, and watched him pull his shirt over his head. She nearly gasped at the magnificent display of muscles before her. The only thing that marred the beautiful vision was the angry-looking hole in Josh’s shoulder, and the dried blood smeared down his chest. Just at his belt line above his left hip, a flesh wound stood out prominently in red against his bronze skin. Danica wondered how he could be so unaffected by the bitter cold. He dropped to his knees in front of her, and looked at her, his expression unreadable.
“Do it,” he said firmly, and pulled the knife from the flames, thrusting it at her. Danica held his eyes for a moment, then took the knife from him, her cold hand brushing against his warm one. Her fingers tingled to life instantly, the sensation radiating up her arm and down her center, to settle somewhere deep inside her. A familiar stirring and fluttering in her stomach brought her back to her senses.

Yellowstone Dawn is tentatively scheduled for release around April 15th (tax day!)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Guest Author - Lyn Horner

Today I am truly pleased to welcome Lyn Horner to my blog. She is going to share some great information about the predators (of the feline, canine, and ursidae variety) that inhabited Texas during the 1800's, the time and setting of her Texas Druid Trilogy.

Find out more about Lyn and her books here

Texas: Here Be Panthers!

Fort Worth, Texas, where I live, is often called the Panther City. This nickname traces back to the Civil War. Army troops were called away to fight in the war, leaving settlers vulnerable to attack by Comanche and Kiowa who didn’t cotton to paleface invaders. As a result, many Fort Worth residents fled eastward. In their absence, panthers supposedly slept in the deserted streets. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sure makes for a good yarn.

When I say panthers, I don’t mean the big black cats native to South American jungles. I mean cougars, also known as pumas, mountain lions or catamounts. In the old days they were often called panthers or painters, and they roamed all over Texas. Now, they’re found mainly in the mountainous deserts, including Big Ben National Park, and on the brushy Rio Grande Planes in the south and western parts of the state.

Cougars are solitary, shy animals, nocturnal hunters of deer, wild hogs, rabbits and other small prey. However, they do occasionally kill livestock, dogs, even horses. Tye Devlin, the hero of my novel, Dashing Druid, tangles with one of these cats while on a cattle drive to Kansas. You can read a short excerpt at the end of this article.

Another big cat formerly found in Texas is the jaguar, the third largest cat in the world. Called el tigre in Mexico, this beautiful spotted cat once roamed over the southern and eastern portions of Texas, but there have been no proven sightings since the turn of the 20th century. Shy and retiring, jaguars usually will not attack humans unless cornered, but they are said to go after cattle and horses if given the chance.

Smaller feline predators in Texas, past or present, include the ocelot, jaguarundi, margay and bobcat. Ocelots once ranged all over the dense brush thickets of south Texas and were occasionally seen in the north and central parts of the state. Now they’re found only in a few brushy patches on the Rio Grande Plains. Likewise the jaguarundi. Not much larger than a common domestic cat, these dark gray or reddish cats are very seldom seen. Margays are extinct in Texas. The only reported specimen was caught near Eagle Pass, on the Rio Grande, in the 1850s, but fossil evidence shows these small spotted cats once inhabited southern Texas. They now live only in tropical forests beyond our borders.
Bobcats are the most common wild felines in Texas. Short-tailed, rusty-brown or gray, with dark splotches and bars, they are as large as a medium-sized dog. Preferring rocky areas or brushy thickets for cover, bobcats have adapted to human intrusion in their habitat and still range all over the state. Like most cats, they are shy of humans and do their hunting mainly at night. They eat mostly ground squirrels, wood rats, mice and rabbits, but will sometimes prey upon domestic sheep, goats and poultry.

Okay, I’m cat obsessed, but I will briefly mention other Texas predators. First is the coyote. This doglike carnivore roves all over the state. Often called “prairie wolves,” coyotes did not always inhabit the forests of east Texas, but as the native red wolves were eradicated, coyotes moved in. Like wolves, they often form packs, but may live alone. They eat garbage, carrion, and prey on rabbits, rodents and some domestic poultry.

Although red wolves are now mostly gone, some interbred with coyotes, producing coyote-like offspring. Larger gray wolves once ranged over the western two-thirds of the state, but they have also been eradicated. The last two confirmed sightings were in 1970. Rounding out the canine family, three varieties of fox call Texas home. The tiny swift or “kit” fox lives in the open desert and grasslands to the west. The medium-size gray fox is found statewide but gravitates toward forested areas. The red fox, brought into the state in 1895 for sport hunting, live in east and central Texas, though they’re not very common.

Finally, is the black bear. These omnivores previously roamed all over Texas, but only a few now inhabit the mountainous Trans-Pecos area in the far west of the state. They feed upon vegetation, carrion and garbage around camp sites. Some may kill deer or livestock.
For further information try these sources:

The Mammals of Texas by William B. Davis and David J. Schmidly (online edition)

Okay, here’s a taste of Tye Devlin’s encounter with a cougar:

Delayed by the flooded Red River, the herd is being held, waiting for the river to go down before crossing into Indian Territory (Oklahoma.) Nearby flows a small stream called Panther Creek -- where panthers are said to lurk. Tye is riding night guard.

The panther had screamed a couple times earlier, but he’d sounded farther away. He was getting too close for comfort now. Along with the other night guards, Tye attempted to calm the cattle, not an easy task when he was on edge himself.
Glancing at the stars, he judged it nearly time to head for his bedroll. Three nights of double guard duty had left him dog tired, but the panther’s presence overrode his need for sleep.
He stiffened in his saddle when another blood-curdling cry rang out, sounding dangerously close. Dozens of cattle scrambled to their feet, almost ready to run.
“Stop your racket, ye devil,” Tye muttered. Figuring he was closer to the troublemaker than anyone else, he made a quick decision. Not giving himself time to reconsider, he swung the grulla toward where he thought the shriek had come from, certain the panther wouldn’t attack him. He’d seen the creatures down along the Nueces and back in Colorado. They must roam all over the West. Lions, some miners called them. Despite their fearsome cry, they usually ran off when a man approached.
He’d drawn near to a rocky outcrop when a long, shadowy shape detached itself from the rocks and took off running with a snarl. Startled for a second, Tye kneed his horse after the predator to make sure it kept going. Oddly, the cat appeared to limp, but it still outran them for a good ways. Then it stumbled to a halt, whirled around and shrieked.
The grulla stopped so short, Tye nearly catapulted over its head. Before he could regain his balance, the horse neighed in terror and reared. Losing his grip, Tye tumbled from the saddle and hit the ground hard, knocking the breath out of him. He lay there for a few seconds, fighting to breathe while the horse galloped off. Then he started to sit up . . . and froze.
Not ten feet away, he saw the dark form of the panther. Ears laid back, fangs bared and eyes glittering in the moonlight, the cat crouched, ready to spring. Tye grabbed for his gun, but stopped, remembering the nearby herd. A gunshot might start a stampede. Reaching for his knife instead, he barely had time to draw it from his boot before the panther was on him.
The snarling brute instantly went for his throat. Tye clamped his free hand around the beast’s own throat to hold it off. As he did, razor-sharp claws raked his shoulders. Hissing in pain, he attempted to plunge his knife into the cat’s heart, but oaken ribs deflected the blow. All he did was make the demon madder.
Growling, the panther tried to twist free of his hold on its neck. A hind foot clawed his right thigh; front talons flayed his chest. Crying out, Tye shifted his grip and desperately forced the animal’s head back.

Learn how this life and death battle ends in Dashing Druid.

Friday, March 9, 2012

(Camp) Food Memories

When my wife asked me to write these blogs on Friday’s, she wanted them to  be about “recipes” (who uses those when you’re camping anyhow) and campfire cooking. Honey, I promise next week I will share some black kettle goodness. But this week I want share a memory or two that I have about  camping and food.
                  I never forget that I have really been blessed at home in  a very simple way. I have never had to deal with hunger. I have always had food on my table, or at least the means to put it there. That hasn’t always been the case outdoors though.  There have been times in life where what I had to eat wasn’t what I really wanted to eat.  I once had my jaw wired shut for 6 weeks after a surgery. Everything I ate had to come through a straw.  Twenty five years later I can still remember just how GOOD that cinnamon roll tasted the day they cut those wires (although I could  only open my mouth ¼”, and had to break off itty bitty pieces)!
(had to include a picture of a pleasant camping food item)
                  When I first ventured into dutch oven cooking outdoors,  Peggy and I had another, similar experience. We were going camping on a long weekend and I was so excited about trying out my new “method” of cooking that I forgot just about every other cooking utensil except that black pot. Now Peggy and I are the type of people who require coffee in the mornings. You know the type. Well I had forgotten the filters, but worse,  I had forgotten a small saucepan in which to heat water. I started a fire and soon I was ready to try making campfire coffee.  We had cooked dinner (I forget exactly what it was) in our only dutch oven the night before. Now, I don’t care how well you think you cleaned that pot out the night before….. It ain’t meant for making coffee in the next morning. By the time the water was heated, it had all kinds of leftover (how shall I put this) “dinner” floating in it. To make matters worse though, the paper towels that we did have passed the water too quickly to act as effective coffee filters.  I had to resort to boiling the grounds in the pot and then filtering out the flotsam & jetsom later. That was the single worst tasting cup of coffee I have ever had in my life! But I remember it and I was happy to have it. The results of not having it would have been far more miserable.  
                  I have had other close calls outdoors with food (on a backpacking weekend with my dog, I  gave my last cup of water to the dog because I thought he needed it more than I did) and some were un-comfortable (or at least un-palatable). Each time though, that next meal , nasty cup of coffee, or just fresh water have held a special memory for me. If something gets burnt in the campfire tonight, or you forgot a key ingredient for breakfast tomorrow, just remember it could always be worse. You will probably remember your next meal  as being just a little bit better than it really is… and that alone should make it special.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Announcement! Contest Winners

The contest is now over  in the Yellowstone Romance Series.

What year did Yellowstone become a national park?

The answer: 1872  President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the creation of the world's first national park as a "pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people." The exact date was March 1, 1872.

In 1903, President Teddy Roosevelt laid the cornerstone to what was named the Roosevelt Arch, the northern entry point to the park from Gardiner, Montana. The arch is inscribed with words from the original act of dedication: "For the benefit and enjoyment of the people"

A big thank you to to the two ladies, Shirl and Linda Hubalek, who entered the contest. I would like to present both of you with a copy of an ebook in the series. If you could contact me at ynpdreamer at gmail dot com, I will email you  a copy of your choice.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Guest Author Ginger Simpson

Today, I am honored to have Ginger Simpson on the blog. And she brought along some ladies from her book, Sisters in Time.

 Thanks, Peggy for inviting me to visit your blog.  I've brought with me two characters from my time-travel romance with an historical twist, Sisters in Time.  Mariah and Taylor are here to tell you a little about their experience, but before I interview them, I'd like to share the book blurb:

When two women from different eras switch bodies and time, you can bet there are more sparks involved than the electrical storm that caused the time-travel. A modern-day attorney is no match for the pioneer wife she can you live without a cell phone, a blow dryer and mascara? And the prim and proper Mariah isn't the least bit prepared for the fashion, fuss and modern gadgets that come with being in the 20th century. She almost faints when she takes her first plane ride. Will they find a way back to their own husbands and time? 

Now that everyone has an idea about the storyline, I'd like to introduce you to my two main characters.  I'll start with my pioneer wife:
Ginger:  “Good Morning Mariah.  It’s very nice to have you here.  A reader can only imagine how strange it was to start off on a trip to town for supplies and awaken in another time and place. Tell us how you felt about it.”
Mariah: *runs her hand down her long gingham skirt and sits a little straighter on her stool.  “It’s very nice to be here, although it does bring back some frightening moments.  *glances around at all the equipment and leans back to study the cylinder-like mike.*
Ginger:  “Tell us a little about what happened the morning you woke up in 20th century Colorado.” 
Mariah:  “There isn’t much I recall except packing a lunch for the trip and waiting for Frank to bring the wagon around.  The children and I had already done most of the chores indoors and were ready to go.” *sighs*
Ginger:  “Go on….”
Mariah:  “The last thing I remember is stopping next to a boulder so our son could… well you know.  A nest of rattlesnakes spooked the team and I reckon I was thrown off the wagon seat and hit my head. Frank did the best he could to manage the horses—”
Ginger:  “I’m sure it was a frightening moment for everyone, but tell us how you felt when you opened your eyes for the first time after the accident.”
Mariah:  *widens her eyes* “Scared.  There I was in some big ol’ bed, in a room filled with strange contraptions—like in here. *gestures to speakers and control panel* “I had a tube in my throat, couldn’t talk, and a man I didn’t recognize at all sat by my bedside constantly and called me Taylor.  I swear, you don’t have any idea how exasperating it is not to be able to speak.  I had no idea then who Taylor was or why he thought I was her.”  *turns and smiles at Taylor, seated next to her*
Taylor:  “Well it wasn’t any picnic waking up in your archaic bedroom with your pesky husband bugging me, either.” 
Mariah:  “Pesky?”
Taylor: “Yes, pesky.  The man wouldn’t take my word that I wasn’t his wife.  And how you lived back then with no cell phones, hair dryers or nail salons, I have no idea.  *Bends her knuckles and examines her manicure*
Mariah:  *swivels on her stool* “Your husband was insistent, too.  I must have told him a thousand times my name wasn’t Taylor.  It wasn’t bad enough that I had to be in a hospital for such a long time, I couldn’t believe the… the tacky clothes he brought and actually expected me to wear them to your house.  I have doilies that cover more.
Taylor:  “You wouldn’t know style if it was forced on you…and it was.  Those things hanging in your… your armoire are a far cry from New York’s fashion center.  I couldn’t tell the difference between your daytime and nighttime wardrobe.”
Ginger:  “Ladies, ladies, we’re getting off track here.  Let’s get back to the interview.  Taylor, tell us about your first impression… in a kind way if you don’t mind. 
Taylor:  “Can you imagine landing in a space in time where words like Taxi, phone, radio, and Lexus don’t make any sense?  I felt like I came from Mars and spoke a totally different language.  Frank, Miss Priss’ husband, got frustrated with me.  How is that my problem?”
Ginger:  “It must be alarming to wake up in a place totally strange and then have to be without the usual comforts.”
Mariah: “It’s equally as frightening to wake up in a place full of gadgets you know nothing about.  I almost fainted when the basin in Taylor’s kitchen growled at me.  And I had no idea that ice boxes had come so far.  Frozen meat, sodas, and what about that little device that opened cans all on its own?  My goodness.  I tell you what though; I’ll never be able to describe the thrill of flying.
Ginger:  “That’s right.  You flew in an airplane, didn’t you?”
Mariah: “Yes, David arranged for me to have that most wonderful experience.
Taylor:  *Her face red, her jaw tense*  “What other wonderful experiences else did David arrange for you?  Did you sleep with my husband? 
Mariah:  *Lowers her gaze* “Not of my own will.  Remember, he kept insisting I was you.  *turns accusing eyes to Taylor*  “Well, you slept with my husband!”
Taylor:  “It’s not my fault.”
Mariah:  “Then whose fault is it?”
Taylor:  “I didn’t write the story, Ginger did. I was on my way to work, minding my own business when she dragged me into her plot.  It’s her fault.”
Mariah:  “Yeah, it is her fault.  Frank never would have thought of sleeping with someone else. We were perfectly happy until she dreamed up this combination time-travel historical. *cast a stony gaze at Ginger*
Ginger:  *checks her watch*.  “Oh dear, we’ve suddenly run out of time.  This has been very interesting, but we’ll have to say goodbye for now.  All I can say in closing is Sisters in Time is available now.  Print and download copies are available at both Eternal Press and Amazon. Thanks for joining us.  I’ll be back next time with a book that features only one heroine.  In the meantime, if you'd like to learn more about my books, please visit my website and I'd love to have you stop by both of my blogs.  Dishin' It Out is my multi-genre blog, and I've just recently started Cowboy Kisses for my historical western friends.  

Again, I'd like to thank Peggy for hosting us today.  One lucky person who comments today will receive their own copy of Sisters in Time.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Campfire Friday - Campfire Basics (Because you need a fire before you can cook!)

When my wife asked me to write about campfire cooking, she really wanted me to write about the cooking part. But part of the success or failure of campfire cooking is in the campfire. I have to confess here that I am a snob in only ONE aspect of my life…. Campfires. I can’t stand watching somebody attempting to burn a green tree stump in the camp next to me (and usually up-wind). I take an odd pride in creating a smoke-free fire and thus avoiding having to do the “chair dance”. Truth be told, I’m just not a good dancer. People, you are NEVER going to get that stump to burn right (smoke-free). Just stop it, for the sake of all others in the campground.

A good campfire starts with reasonably dry wood, but you need three things to have a great fire. Heat, fuel, and AIR.  You always carry a sharp hatchet with you, right? Good, because we’re going to use it here.  A good fire is started with a small bundle of tinder. This can be pine needles, paper, or any of various small twigs that will catch fire fast and flare-up quickly. Just say no to the lighter fluid please. Your family’s food will thank you later. I build a small log cabin around that tinder bundle with sticks no larger than ½” (13mm) in diameter that I have cleaved from the larger logs. At this point have the rest of your wood ready and you can light the fire with one match (although any self-respecting campfire snob like myself will use a flint and steel). I try not to resort to rubbing sticks together, that would just be showing off!  These sticks will then burn just long enough to ignite the main fuel wood of my fire. I try to keep the fuel small at first.

Remember I listed heat as a requisite for a good fire? At this point the fire really hasn’t got that hot yet. I can still get my hands scary close to it and not lose my knuckle hairs. You may actually have to kneel down and GENTLY blow into the fire to stoke it up. Aim for the base. Please note, if you have kids….. don’t let them do this. They will proceed to sit directly across the fire from you and blow with all their might! Dads don’t really need any more scars on their faces. We do just fine at home with our “safety” razors. Sticks that are 1-2 inches (25-50mm) in diameter are perfect at this point. These sticks can be placed in a larger cabin shape around the smaller sticks. Just be sure to allow room for air to get to them. As soon as these bigger pieces have reached their maximum roar, I then add a quarter cut log or two to the fire. At this point even I begin to use tongs (you did remember them again, right) because I hate the smell of burnt eyebrows. This method will allow you to start a fire with 1 match, build heat quickly, and not choke the family down-wind from you. Not only will you avoid the chair dance, your neighbors will too. With just a little prep time and a good sharp axe, you have created a perfect campfire that your family can enjoy together as you prepare your next meal.