CONGRATULATIONS!

Congratulations to Debbie Clatterbuck who won a "Spa Moment with The Reluctant Guardian!"



Thursday, December 22, 2016

Sorghum Syrup



After talking about posting sorghum syrup recipes here while on Debbie Lynne Costello's blog last week, I became discouraged by my inability to actually get my hands on the syrup up here in Canada. I checked every local store without success, and even had my daughter in Vancouver check there. The answer was that they carried the sorghum flour, but there wasn't a demand for the syrup. I found some white syrup in Ontario sold for the brewing trade, but it was from the sorghum grain grown for it's flour, not the type grown for the high sugar content in the stalk, like the cane sugar.

I found several choices for sorghum syrup online through amazon.com, but was told to use their Canadian website amazon.ca. When I did that, there was only one choice and that was for a product that was USD $17 at the .com but at .ca the price jumped to C $72 plus S&H...yet it was still coming from the same Pennsylvania location.

I considered reimbursing a friend - someone who lives in Minnesota - for buying the sorghum syrup, trying out a few recipes, and reporting back with the results, but I couldn't do that to anyone this close to Christmas.

I put the sticky situation with the sorghum syrup to the side and concentrated on preparing the house for Christmas, working on our church's Live Nativity at the local auction mart, etc, until last night after being totally surprised by the arrival of my eldest son, when I realized the date...yes, the one that I was supposed to post sorghum syrup recipes.

If you're wondering why I was looking for sorghum syrup, it's because it's the industry that made my heroine an heiress in my newest novella, Sweet Love Grows, albeit an illegitimate heiress who must fight for her inheritance.



In 1853, sweet sorghum was patented in the United States. According to the National Sweet Sorghum Producers & Processors Assn (NSSPPA), sweet sorghum grows across the south-eastern United States and gulf states, including Texas, north to Wisconsin, and west to Kansas, Iowa, and also Minnesota where my novella is set.

The Annual Report of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society for the Year 1890 shows a report by Mrs. A.A. Kennedy, of Hutchinson, who mentions sorghum syrup under the heading of Pickles and Preserves...

Annual Report of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society: For 1890

The above report shows that sweet sorghum had many uses to a prairie homemaker.

While researching the sorghum industry in Midwest America, I stumbled upon the site of the Maasdam Sorghum Mill of Iowa, which started in 1926 and is still in operation 7 generations later. Their website includes the history of the mill, a store including a recipe book, and this short video by a local news station:



Recipes on websites seem to be copyrighted these days , and since I couldn't test any of sorghum recipes for this post myself, here's some links you might like to check out:
- Maasdam Sorghum Mill Recipes
- Lois' Dutch Sorghum Cake
- Sorghum-Nut Bread

I"m giving away a copy of The American Heiress Brides Collection which contains my novella, Sweet Love Grows. Leave a comment on this post and you'll be entered. Deadline to enter is midnight, Boxing Day, December 26th, 2016.

I'm also holding a giveaway for a copy with a winner drawn from among the subscribers of my quarterly newsletter. If you'd like to get in on that draw, you sign up for the newsletter on my Contest page, or through the blue sign up button below the header of my Facebook Author page.

I will mail one copy of the following postcard to anyone on my newsletter mailing list who leaves a postal address:




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Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Her Christian faith is reflected in her stories of forgiveness and redemption as her characters struggle to find their way to that place in our heart we call home. Anita loves to correspond with her readers through any of the social media links found at

Readers can enrich their reading experience by checking out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories at www.pinterest.com/anitamaedraper



Friday, December 16, 2016

The Four Million


Edwardian-era New York City was a study in contrasts. Recently arrived immigrants from southern and eastern Europe packed into tiny tenements only miles from the mansions of the rich industrialists who employed them in their factories. The same ocean liners that transported the “huddle masses” eager to find a new life in America also carried Europe’s impoverished aristocracy, eager to marry their sons to the daughters of America’s high society. Ward McAllister dubbed these well-heeled and well-connected the “Four Hundred,” the most important people in America. The number was supposedly based the capacity of Caroline Astor’s Newport mansion ballroom.


On the surface, William Sidney Porter would seem to have had a fair amount in common with Ward McAllister. Both sons of the South—McAllister was the child of a George judge while Porter’s father was a North Carolina doctor—married heiresses. However, their lives took very different paths. McAllister followed his father into law, made his fortune in California, and returned to the East to live a life of wealth and ease.

Porter, however, took longer to find his place in the world. His first job was in his uncle’s drugstore, where he eventually became a pharmacist. However, after a move to Texas, he tried a number of jobs, including ranch hand, bank teller, and journalist. His sloppy bookkeeping during his years at the bank led to an embezzlement charge. William skipped bail and traveled to Honduras (where he coined the term “banana republic” to describe Central American countries with unstable governments). But his wife’s impending death from tuberculosis drew him back to America, and he turned himself in. He served three years of his five-year sentence before being released early for good behavior.

It was during his prison years that he began to write under various pen names to keep his identity as a convicted felon a secret. After his release, he continued to find success as a writer of short stories, and he eventually moved to New York City. His stories focused on ordinary Americans and became known for their “twist” endings. His most enduring work is a Christmas story that appeared in a collection called The Four Million. The title is a play on McAllister’s “Four Hundred.” The population of New York City at that time was approximately four million, and Porter—who had become better known by his pen name O. Henry—chose the name to show he considered every one of them as important as the famous “Four Hundred.”

You are probably familiar with O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” about an impoverished young couple who sacrifice their most valuable possessions for each other. It’s in the public domain, so give it another read to celebrate the season. Or watch one of the classic versions available on Youtube.


Then enjoy a couple of spoofs on this timeless holiday story.

From Studio C, what would happen if a modern couple faced the same situation as Jim and Della?


A couple people added some acting to the Adventures in Odyssey radio version known as Gifts for Madge and Guy. Here's the last scene:








Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Interview with Kimberly A. Rogers

Please welcome our guest author, Kimberly A. Rogers. Kimberly is the author of the Therian Way urban fantasy series, and she has just released two new and very different stores:  Christmas Aria and Remember Typhon.


Your latest story, Christmas Aria, is a historical romance set in England. Why the departure from urban fantasy?

Thank you for hosting me today, DeAnna. My inspiration for Christmas Aria was the accents. *laughs* Just kidding. I have always been a bit of an Anglophile and I love the history of the country, which so rich and diverse that it provides so many opportunities to explore. Christmas Aria is also set in one of my favorite eras, the Regency period. I am a huge fan of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer whose combined works definitely provided me with high standards for my own venture into the historical genre.

I understand the delicious Richard Armitage was your inspiration for your latest hero. What in particular made you choose him?

I do love the man’s voice. Have you heard him read Heyer? *melts*

Oh, yes, indeed.


If I could pick one actor to play/read my hero, the Earl of Brenton, it would definitely be him. Of course, it is a bit of a bonus that the cover model has a touch of RA in his looks, which is just the cherry on top.

That cover is great. Just gorgeous! And he does look a bit like Richard Armitage, which can't hurt sales in the least. What else are you working on?

I am very excited to share that I have a new release currently available for pre-order and releasing tomorrow, December 15th. Remember Typhon is a science fiction short story with action and adventure along with a healthy dash of humor. It is our first look into a new world involving Gavril the head security officer on his cruiser, Zenia the civilian communication expert, and her cat. Gavril and Zenia are unique in that they are the only members of their species, the Pleiades, serving in the Terran Solar Navy. It also causes them both some…complicated feelings. Remember Typhon is a first glimpse of their rather tenuous relationship amidst a mystery, a disaster, and a rescue attempt.



Oooh, that's another great cover. Very unusual. Could you tell us more about Remember Typhon?

Remember Typhon is my first venture into the science fiction genre. It originated with a dare from a certain fellow author and friend to turn a vague idea about an alien and her cat into an honest-to-goodness story. This dare actually turned out far better (not to mention more interesting) than I had originally thought it would. I’m excited to return to the world of Remember Typhon in the future.

These are very diverse genres from your normal one. What made you decide to branch out?

They are very different. I have joked that this past summer was all about prying me out of my comfort zone. I love reading Regencies and I enjoy the well-written Sci-Fi story in addition to enjoying both Star Trek and Star Wars franchises, but I never really intended to write my own. At least for the Science Fiction. I always said “Someday” for the Regency Romances, by which I meant AFTER I finished my Therian Way series. *laughs* Boy, was I wrong on that count.

It is always challenging to swap genres, especially from Fantasy to true historical. However, I very much enjoyed the challenge. I felt like the experience of venturing outside my comfort genre prompted me to grow as a writer. And, it was nice break from the steady focus on The Therian Way alone. Plus, I could not ignore the characters any longer. They are so very demanding.

So does that mean there will be more Regencies and Sci-Fi stories?

I am very excited to share that there will be both more Regencies and Sci-Fi stories to come. I currently have a four-book Regency romance series planned involving certain secondary characters you will find in Christmas Aria and of course, Lord and Lady Brenton will make their own cameos in these stories as well.

For Gavril and Zenia, I have just recently begun the initial plotting stages for their next adventure, which will spin off from the events of Remember Typhon.

I do not have any firm dates for these stories yet, but I am hopeful to have the first books out by late 2017.

Wow, that's an exciting list. I can't wait to read more of your stories. Being a Heyer fan myself, I'm particularly eager to read more of your Regency romances. Thank you so much for visiting the Inkwell again. And here's another picture of Richard Armitage. Because I can.


Links:



Christmas Aria BCC and Link:

England 1814

Aria Parkhurst, Countess of Brenton, has made the match of the Season. Now all she wants is to have the perfect Christmas with her new husband. However, when the newlyweds arrive at their country estate to find that the Earl’s obnoxious cousin has made himself at home, Aria finds herself drawn into the webs of gossip and scandal that delight the ton. And, when a former suitor sets his eyes on her as a prize, will the Earl believe that she married him for love and not money? Or will Aria’s first Christmas as a bride see her dreams unravel?

*At 39,000 words, this sweet Regency Christmas Romance is a long novella.


Remember Typhon BCC and Link:

As the head security officer on the TSS Cruiser Starstream, Commander Gavril’s well-ordered life has only two sources of disruption – communication expert Zenia and her cat. Much as he would love to jettison them both, he is forced to tolerate their presence.

Zenia does not understand why the only other Pleiades on the cruiser acts the way he does. Well, other than the fact that he is a warrior and they are hardly reasonable in the best circumstances.

When Zenia uncovers a distress call on the plant Typhon, Gavril is forced to take her along for the rescue mission. However, when things go wrong, the proud commander finds his life held in the hands of none other than Zenia. When Typhon is remembered, will everyone survive?

A SciFi Short Story


Friday, November 25, 2016

Signs along the Way: Scotland

There are far too many things I could post about on the subject of my recent trip to Scotland. Today, I'm sticking with signs--a wee taste of my holiday!


Our first meal in Edinburgh was in a tiny little shop. After a sleepless 'red-eye', we needed some protein. And, apparently...some chips.

Not so much a sign but a mini-menu on board the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow. 

Train station sign along the West Highland Line from Glasgow on the way to Fort William. 

We stayed at a guest house near the ocean in Morar

A great place to hike - the Knoydart peninsula. (Accessible only by boat.) We went just to visit the tea shop and see the highlands from the ocean.

You may not think of gorgeous beaches when you think of Scotland, but you should.  This is the beach used in the movie Local Hero and I made a point of finding it.

How's your Gaelic? GĂ idhlig? This is from Fort William, near Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain. 

This was a nice surprise. Yes, IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY. And apparently, it was also the birthday of Glasgow Airport.  I'm not sure which of us is older. But it was definitely a 'milestone' for me.
 Outlander was filming inside the studio that day. 


While it's fun to know that the Outlander series made its home in Cumbernauld, the real reason I wanted to visit the old village was to see where my great grandparents came from. 

This abandoned castle is used as Lallybroch in the Outlander TV series. Filming had taken place two days before we visited and we caught a day when it was actually possible to get up close.

On the top of Castle Rock in Edinburgh is a series of buildings and walls that have evolved into today's Edinburgh Castle. This is the oldest building on site. This pretty much beats any U.S. historic site, aye?

The Writer's Museum, Edinburgh



More Writers... We had high tea next door, but it was fun to peek in the window of The Elephant House on George IV Bridge. (be forewarned, don't expect it to look like a bridge).

So that's part of my special trip as captured in signs. I've longed to go to Scotland since I was a child and even in all my dreams, and all the photos and movies I've seen, it was even more beautiful than I imagined!

Do you take photos of signs (and food) like I do when I travel? I'll be posting more over the next year as I made a point of visiting three places that are settings for upcoming stories! Have you visited Scotland? What did you like the best?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Scary Librarians

We at Inkwell suggest you buy books rather than using your local library. This has nothing to do with our being authors and getting royalties for book sales. It's for your own good. Really.



Those librarians! Tough crowd.

Monday, November 21, 2016

All Aboard the Jarrett-Palmer Express Train



By Susanne Dietze

The train trip in my novella The Honeymoon Express from The Rails to Love Collection was inspired by a real event: the Jarrett-Palmer Express Train, or the Lightning Express!
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Find it here!

After 1869, when Leland Stanford drove the ceremonial Golden Spike connecting the Union Pacific and Central Pacific rail lines to create the first transcontinental railroad in America, passengers could travel from coast-to-coast by rail. The voyage took approximately one week, at speeds averaging 20 mph.

The week-long trip was incredibly fast for the time, but in 1876, the trip was accomplished--one time only--in just eighty-three hours.

Henry Jarrett & Henry Palmer are the duo responsible for coming up with this amazing event. One might suspect they were in the railroad business, but in fact, they managed a New York theatre company. Eager for a way to promote their troupe, they determined they'd travel to the west coast by rail in four days, where the actors would get off the train and perform Henry V in San Francisco.

It was an incredibly complicated, cooperative effort that required tremendous planning and expense. Naturally, the trip received a good deal of press in the months leading up to the departure--which Jarrett & Palmer must have enjoyed, since tickets to Henry V sold well, too. At last the big day came, and with much fanfare, the train pulled out of the station in Jersey City, New Jersey, on June 1, 1876.

To complete the journey in the four-day time frame, trains would have to move at high speeds, and necessary stops would have to be as short as possible. All the way to California, rail workers ensured as smooth a path as possible, clearing the way of debris and diverting other trains onto side tracks so the Lightning Express could zip by. At every scheduled stop, supplies, water, and coal were ready for quick loading, as were staff, including conductors, brakemen, firemen and engineers. Likewise, the engine was switched out five times to avoid mechanical issues.

The Lightning Express must have caused a great deal of inconvenience for the railroads and passengers on other trains, but if anyone minded, they seem to have been in the minority. Day and night, people lined the tracks to get a gander at the train, and several towns shot off fireworks when it passed. Reportedly, a man's funeral was interrupted by the coming of the train; everyone went to look at it and returned to the church to finish the service afterwards. 

Businesses and agencies got in on the act, too. The New York Times shipped its newspaper to Chicago on the train, Wells Fargo put a safe in the baggage car, and the USPS created a postmark for mail that went on the train. 


Being a passenger on the Lightning Express wasn't the most comfortable experience, however. Traveling at a high rate of speed wasn't as smooth then as it is on modern trains. The jarring and jolting made it difficult to sleep, walk, or cook, so most food was served cold. When passengers did manage to catch a few winks, they awoke to cinders on their faces.

To be a coast-to-coast trip, the passengers took the train as far as it would go, Oakland, California, and boarded a ferry to take them to San Francisco. A mob was waiting, even though the train was twelve hours early.


At last, the passengers arrived in San Francisco. Despite a few difficulties with equipment and weather, the Lightning Express completed the trip in just three days, eleven hours, and 39 minutes--an astounding achievement in technology.
The production of Henry V was a success, too, just as Jarrett & Palmer hoped, but the legacy of the express train known by their names is far more lasting as a mechanical achievement, national source of pride and celebration, and a stepping stone for more efficient travel in America. 



For more, read: The Jarrett-Palmer Express of 1876, Coast to Coast in Eighty-Three Hours, by J. C. Ladenheim, Harvest Books, 2008.

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A version of this blog originally appeared on Heroes, Heroines & History.

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Susanne Dietze began writing love stories in high school, casting her friends in the starring roles. Today, she's the award-winning author of a dozen new and upcoming historical romances. A pastor's wife and mom of two, she loves fancy-schmancy tea parties, the beach, and curling up on the couch with a costume drama and a plate of nachos. You can visit her on her website, www.susannedietze.com, and sign up for her newsletter for an occasional cheery hello: http://eepurl.com/bieza5