Sunday, September 23, 2018

10 Rumored Locations of the Lost Amber Room

I went a little off my beaten path to write this list. If you enjoy tales of buried treasure, dastardly Nazis, treasure hunters, and conspiracies as much as I do, please let me know in the comments! Don't forget to share on Facebook & Twitter.

10 Rumored Locations of the Lost Amber Room

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Taste of History Review

As a historical fiction author, I love everyday bits of history, the things so often over-looked in our school text books. What did people's daily lives look like? What did they do first thing in the morning or last thing before bed? What did they do for work or fun? What did they eat?

A Taste of History can help to answer that last question, at least in part. This PBS program presented by Chef Walter Staib takes a look at the recipes left behind by early Americans, particularly those of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Chef Staib is described on his Facebook page thus:

"A third generation restaurateur with over four decades of culinary experience, Staib refined his career through formal training in the finest hotels and restaurants in Europe before coming to the United States. In 1989, he founded Concepts by Staib, Ltd., a globally recognized restaurant management and hospitality consulting firm, which is the driving force behind of the nation’s most unique dining establishments: Philadelphia’s City Tavern, a faithful recreation of an original 18th century tavern.

In addition to being a top chef, restaurateur and consultant, Chef Staib has also authored 5 cookbooks."

The simple format of the program is far removed from the glitzy, high drama programming so popular on the Food Network, which comes as a welcome relief. The eighteenth-century kitchen appears small and tight, boasting nothing more than a couple of tables and a moderately large fireplace. Chef Staib turns back and forth between the workbench and the fire over which all of the food is expertly cooked. As he moves to and fro, hefting hot, heavily laden pots and pans we quickly learn how much more aerobic cooking must have been in the Revolutionary Period. Cookware includes devilishly sharp knives, a few cutting boards, Dutch Ovens, Spiders, cutlery, and a few specialty items which pop up now and a again.

It all appears so simple, one begins to trick oneself into believing they too could efficiently prepare their own suppers of hearty meats, root vegetables, legumes, and rich sauces over an open fire. I can barely barbecue without mass incineration and a handy extinguisher.

The show does suffer from one flaw which plagues many such looks at history, one which is almost unavoidable. The cuisine is largely focused on those of a higher class. This is, of course, because those people had access to better quality and a larger variety of ingredients. They also had the education and tools to record recipes and dishes served at parties and at home. Little is recorded of the daily meals of the poor. Therefore, I do not consider this a major flaw in the series. After all, watching a talented, successful chef prepare dish after dish of gruel, scrap soups, corn mush, and low-quality bread would probably not be very interesting.

I do believe there is also some cherry-picking involved in the recipe selection. Staib rarely prepares the cuts of meat which are now considered disgusting. Brains, eyes, intestines, and thiamus glands have not appeared in any of the episodes I have watched, although I know they were consumed in the era. The program also makes the responsible choice not to involve any potentially poisonous ingredients or food-handling practices which may have been used in the eighteenth century. The program reads more as a cooking show than a documentary and I am sure nobody involved in the production wants to see any home cooks poisoning themselves after ignoring or missing disclaimers.

All in all, the program lulls one into the comfortable feeling of watching a relative prepare a meal while also gently teaching both significant and trivial pieces of history. If you ever find yourself curled up with a piping cup of cocoa on a cold, lonely evening I would highly recommend A Taste of History as a quiet, pleasant companion. Perhaps you will even decide to cook something over that crackling wood stove in the corner.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

10 Things Bog Mummies Have Taught us about Iron Age People

I am so excited to announce that my article has been published on Listverse! I had fun researching & writing it, so I hope you have fun reading it. Please check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

10 Things Bog Mummies Have Taught us about Iron Age People

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Rediscovering my Voice

I am now in the process of putting the final polish on my romance manuscript. It has  already been edited approximately... 8,000 times. The first draft was unusually rough for me and I've only just realized why.

I wrote The Gates of Nottingham when I was very young. It was a huge learning experience for me. I believe any author's first novel teaches them patience, perseverance, and humility, but most of all, it gives them a voice. From Nottingham I learned that I prefer to pen third-person limited narratives with tight, lean prose. My novels have all had varying degrees of darkness, most exuding a certain level of anxiety.  In So Many Secrets I experimented with first person story telling because I believed that would best suit the story, but in Prince Dead, I returned to form with a story written from the perspective of four characters. I have often been told I write like a man, all flowery prose and high emotion kept to a minimum for the sake of stress-inducing suspense and emotionally scarred characters.

For these reasons, dipping my toes into the romance genre proved a challenge.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Best Software for Novelists?

If you are a writer who has not heard of Scrivener, I would highly recomment it. If you are already using it, my guess is that you love it.  Before I begin my review, I want to assure you that I am in no way affiliated with Scrivener, nor am I being in any way compensated for my review. This post does, however, contain Amazon Affiliate links.

Scrivener is word processing software targeted at writers of long projects, novels included. These projects are broken down into subdocuments, e.g. chapters, scenes, research documents, etc. Most people are familiar with Microsoft Word, so I would like to share the advantages of Scivener over that program:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Gates of Nottingham Free on Kindle

I am excited to announce that from 7/13/17 to 7/17/17, my medieval action/adventure novel The Gates of Nottingham will be FREE on Kindle. Get your copy while the promotion lasts!

Please remember that an honest review is one of the best payments you can give an author. I hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Novel Half Edited, A Novel Half Written

I haven't updated this blog with anything personal in a while, so I wanted to let you know what has been going on with my writing.

My contemporary romance novel is undergoing a final edit. I am moving the setting to the Sierra Nevada foothills, to a fictional area inspired by the by the towns of Rough and Ready and Penn Valley. The novel touches on fictional issues of nepotism, gossip, and abuse of power in a small town, but is not meant to reflect any person, people, or behaviours of those in government in either of these real towns. As I say, the story line is entirely fictional.

I wanted to reflect the natural beauty of the area and the slower pace of life which conflicts with the protagonists' experiences in LA and San Francisco. I believe that when most people think of California, they picture sunny beaches and movie stars, but that is really such a small part of the state.

I live in a gold rush area, filled with redwoods and pines, scarred by the strip mines, and fed by an abundance of lakes and rivers. This is a place where you may lose cell phone reception, where you can still get lost, where you can hide out in the hills and avoid contact with other people if you chose. It is a place where you can go fishing, boating, or hiking just ten or fifteen minutes from home. There is one sandwich shop in town and one small grocery store. Costco is an hour's drive. It might take even longer if your neighbor happens to be herding cattle up your street or driving a tractor to a friend's house to lend a hand.

I think this unique setting will be of interest to readers and will certainly influence my characters.

As to the novel half-written, I have reached a point where I need to do some serious research to plot the second half. I have not fully researched the War for Independence at this point because inspiration struck and I wanted to get the main plot on paper while it was strong in my head. The war affects the characters and exists in the background, but this is not a war novel. It is the story of a group of people attempting to do what is right, stumbling, disagreeing, and creating anguish in the process. It is about compromise, forgiveness, and respect. So, while I will be learning more about the setting, this is definitely a character-driven novel. I hope to finish it soon.

Let me know if you like these updates and I will post more. You can also follow me on Twitter for tidbits on my writing struggles and triumphs.