Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dawn's Early Light by L.C. Lewis - a Review

Wow! Laurie Lewis has done it again. Writing as L.C. Lewis, she has just released another action-packed, stuffed-full-of-American-History novel. This is the third in the Free Men and Dreamers series, entitled Dawn’s Early Light. Set during the War of 1812, it’s a continuation of the story of Jed Pearson, plantation owner, member of the Maryland Militia, and man of principle and action.

If you read my review of the two earlier books, you know that in them we met Jed and his wife Hannah as young people, and we followed their rocky courtship, hoping that she would choose him in the face of her parents’ disapproval. In this Early American setting, Ms. Lewis let us see the incidents that were shaping not only Jed and Hannah’s destinies, but also the destiny of their young country.

The brilliant thing about this series is that it lets us see how intertwined the affairs of England and America were at that juncture. We see how the lives of families on both sides of the Atlantic were colored by the same incidents, only in different hues because they were seen through a different lens.

Ms. Lewis has also brought the War of 1812 battles surrounding Washington D.C. to life. As a writer, I marvel at her foresight to have written the minor character Marcus O’Mally into the first book and let us get to know him better in the second so that in the third, we can follow his exploits as a bargeman and understand this part of the naval strategy. That’s plotting at its very best.

I also appreciated the glimpse of Dolly Madison. After finishing Dawn’s Early Light, one of the things high on my To Do List is to get her biography and read it.

Though this is one of a series of books, it can stand alone. Ms. Lewis has provided a list of the cast of characters, and as they are introduced into the narrative, she unobtrusively reminds us who they are and how they have been important to our main characters.
You can buy Dawn's Early Light on Amazon, Deseret Book, Seagull Books or order it from your favorite book store.
I can’t wait to read Number Four in the Free Men and Dreamers Series. If you read Dawn’s Early Light (and you must), you’ll know exactly why.
Follow this blog! I have yet to make good on my promise to teach you how to make flour tortillas, and I'm also going to blog about Navajo Tacos, so hang around.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Regolith, Orthoclase, and Other Lovely Words

I love rocks. I could spend hours in a dry stream bed, stumbling along with head bent and eyes on the ground. It’s time that should be spent with a companion, though. Not only so you’ll have someone to help you when you turn your ankle, but also so you can share the things you find: a whimsically shaped rock or one with a streak of exotic color or one that has been worn so smooth and round that it looks like it’s been polished.

Derrill and I try to bring back a rock or two whenever we travel. I have a one from Beartooth summit to commemorate the day we crossed that almost-eleven-thousand-foot pass on our way from Yellowstone to Custer’s Last Stand at Little Bighorn. I have another from Panaca summit, where we went to see the charcoal kilns. I have a beautiful hunk of rose quartz from South Dakota, and a much uglier piece of regular quartz from a mountain near Concunelly, WA (left). I’ve got lump of lava from Idaho, and a rectangular slab of red sandstone from St. George, Utah.

Little wonder, then, that when Derrill mentioned a geology course he had found on the internet, I agreed it was something we should do and ordered it from The Teaching Company.

This course consisted of eighteen hours of lectures in half-hour segments taught on DVD by Professor John J. Renton of West Virginia University. Sporting a curly handlebar moustache and with a genial manner and sly sense of humor, Dr. Renton made sure the lectures weren’t dry. The information was basic, which was good, because when Derrill and I were last in a college classroom, Plate Tectonics wasn’t yet being taught. We had lots to learn, including new vocabulary words. Two of my favorites were orthoclase and regolith.

Toward the end of the series, one of my sons called to visit, and as we talked about how much we were enjoying the class, I was going to impress him by dropping one of the terms into the conversation. But I couldn’t for the life of me remember it! I could remember the definition. I knew it started with an R, but I couldn’t summon the word. I went through the evening with a Grrr attitude, upset because I had forgotten my lovely new word and thinking that just as soon as it popped into my brain, I’d write an email to my son, telling him what it was and what it meant. The wow factor would be gone, but I would have redeemed myself.

I was just drifting off to sleep at midnight when the word came tiptoeing in to my brain. Regolith! That was the word.

“Are you awake?” I whispered to Derrill, wanting to share with someone the fact that I had remembered. He didn’t reply, so I turned over and muttered the word several times to myself to make sure that I’d have it when I woke up the next morning.

It didn’t work. I had to look it up in the lecture notes.

But that doesn’t matter. We’re on to Complexity now. It’s a math class, sorta. It’s only twelve lectures. And when we get through with that, we’ve got a short course on the history of the American Constitution, one on the history of the Bible and the making of the New Testament canon, one on the rise and fall of the British Empire, and one on the life and writings of C. S. Lewis. That should take us through the winter in fine shape.

These courses are quite reasonable if you buy them on sale, and there are always lots of them on sale. Check out the web site. You’ll find their Great Courses are a good workout for the gray cells. Except for vocabulary words beginning with R.


Follow this blog! Click on the "Follow" button on the side bar to become a regular reader. Remember, I'm going to blog about how to make flour tortillas, and I've still got a pie recipe or two or three to share, too. And...a killer fudge recipe for Christmas.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Liz Adair's World Famous Apple Pie Recipe

A long time ago I blogged about making pies for homeless shelters and food banks for Thanksgiving as a service project of youth groups. In parts 2 and 3 of that series, I taught you how to make a flaky pie crust. Click here to go to Part 2. It will have a link to Part 3. The filling recipe I gave in that series was one that was good when working with a lot of squirrely teenagers. It's the one you will usually find in recipe books.

Today I'm going to give you one that is far, far better. It's one I came up with myself, so you'll have to remember the old saying: self praise is half scandal. (Though I never was sure of exactly what that meant.)

You can make the filling first, using the recipe here and then go to the crust posting and follow the instructions there. For one two-crust pie (top and bottom), use just one batch of the 3-cups-flour, 1-cup-shortning, 1-tsp.-salt recipe. You'll use about 1/3 to 1/2 cup cold water for one batch.

First, you have to select the kind of apples you're going to use. If you're using fresh apples, you'll need 5 or 6 apples per pie, peeled, cored and sliced into thick slices. I usually end up with chunks about 1" x 1/2".

Or, you can use the apples you home canned using the instructions I posted last month. Use one quart of apples per pie.

Or, you can buy pie-sliced apples that are packed in water. I know you can get them in #10 cans at Costco and at restaurant supply houses. Some times you can find smaller cans of them at grocery stores, but last time I looked, all my local market had was apple pie filling. (You don't want that. This filling is much better.) A #10 can will make three 9-inch pies.

Here is the recipe for filling for one 9-inch pie:

1 1/2 cup apple juice

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

pinch of cloves

Bring 1 cup of the apple juice + 1/2 half cup of sugar to boiling.

Dissolve the cornstarch into the remaining 1/2 cup apple juice and add to the boiling liquid, stirring quickly with a wire whisk so it doesn't get lumpy. When it is thick, pull it off the heat.

Add the spices to the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and mix. When the spices are evenly distributed in the sugar, add to the thickened juice and stir.

Add the apples (drained, if you're using canned apples) and mix.

Set the filling aside as you make your crust and roll it out according to the directions in the links I gave you above. Remember, if you'll follow the instructions about cutting your crusts larger than the pan, moistening the bottom crust, and rolling them under before crimping, you won't have any leakage into your oven.

Bake these pies at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until nicely browned.

With this filling recipe you won't have the voids between the top crust and the filling that you get with other filling recipes that use only dry ingredients.


I realized I haven't blogged about custard pies yet. Custard pies are simple, understated deliciosity. When I was teaching an early-morning class to a bunch of teenagers, I used to defy the Friday Donut tradition by taking a custard pie instead. They loved it, and it was so much better for them. And, it's sooooo easy. Watch for it! sure you don't miss out on the next recipe, review, scrap of wisdom or pithy thought. Become a follower on this blog by clicking on the Join this Site button on the sidebar. Check out my books behind the Liz's Books tab at the top, or read reviews of my latest book under the Reviews tab.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wayne and the Waffle

This isn't the first time I've lifted something my son Wayne has posted on Facebook about his autistic child and namesake, Wayne Jr. I'm proud of both of them, dad and son, so I thought I'd share.

Here's what Wayne Sr. said:

I had the opportunity this year to have two of my children graduate. The first graduation was pretty much what you would expect. My oldest daughter, Elizabeth, graduated from high school. Liz is a fantastic student, is loved by all her teachers, and is respected by her peers. She graduated as a member of National Honor Society, and I was very proud to see her walk across the stage and get her diploma.

The second graduation was not what you might expect. My son Wayne Jr. graduated from preschool. This was my first child to go through this rituaal, and I didn't know what to expect, especially since Wayne was one of two children with autism in a class of 15 students.

The class was a wonderful setting for Wayne. I had worried that he would be ridiculed by the children in the class because of his disability, but in fact, the opposite was true. The kids loved him. They were able to see him for the sweet boy that he is, and they figured out ways to deal with the tics that come with autism.

The parents of the class made a big deal out of the day. They made caps for the children to wear, there were diplomas made up, and the children had been practicing a song that they would perform for the parents.

All parents are apprehensive about their children being on stage. As we sit there watching, I think we are convinced that if we put enough body English on our thoughts, we can WILL them to success. As the class walked up on stage, I spotted Wayne in his blue shirt and gold tie, and I saw that he had a Lego toy in his hand. I felt myself wilt. Mine was the only child that was carrying a toy. I wanted to leap up and explain: HE HAS AUTISM!!! Instead, I thought to myself, "Please let him do well," and I hoped people wouldn't notice the thing Wayne was carrying. I knew why he was carrying it. His routine was very out of sorts; school that day was different from what it normally was, and it was frightening to him. A familiar toy soothed him.

The music started, and I got to see my sweet autistic son march with all the other normal children and sing, "We Are the Dinosaurs." He did all the motions, and he roared, and when they were done, he clapped his hands and cheered with his classmates. All my fears about him failing were totally unjustified.

This is my first time as the father of a special needs child, and I suppose the temptation is there to overprotect him and try to shield him from the possibility of embarrassment. I'm so glad I didn't, because he made me proud.

That happened last spring. The thing that got me thinking about it again was a conversation Shea and I had this past week. We don't talk much about Wayne's future, because we really don't know what to expect. We don't know if he will become a functioning member of society, or if he will be able to live in a group home, or if he will live with Shea and me 'til we are too old to take care of him. We just don't know. And the not knowing is frightening, to some extent.

Wayne gave us a treat this week that kind of helped show Shea and me that he is really a sharp little boy, and he has the ability to learn to care for himself. The act itself seemed simple, but it showed us a level of self-sufficiency. One morning, Wayne got up and was hungry. So, he went over to the fridge, opened the freezer door, and got out an Eggo Waffle. Then he opened the cabinet, took out the toaster, plugged it in, put the waffle in, and pressed the lever down. When the waffle was done, he unplugged the toaster and took the waffle and wandered out of the room.

That act showed that Wayne has the ability to comprehend a task that has multiple steps, and it gave Shea and me a great deal of comfort and hope.

I think that my little autistic boy is going to provide me many opportunities to be a very proud father.
Follow this Blog! The next posting will be my World Famous Apple Pie. You don't want to miss that--it's just in time for your Thanksgiving pies.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Um...Counting the Cost Got This Award....

So, I guess I need to make an announcement. Counting the Cost was a Finalist in USA Book News "National Best Books 2009" Awards.
Runner-up is good!

Friday, November 6, 2009

A 21st Century Rosetta Stone

Most writers who have an on-line presence use Google Alert, which will tell them when someone in cyberspace has mentioned their name or a recent book title.

I'm no exception. I've got my alert set for Liz Adair and for Counting the Cost (a phrase I have found is overused).

The other day, I got an alert that a blogger had mentioned my name. I clicked on the link and found that someone had re-posted an interview that Heidi Thomas had done on her blog a month or so ago. It had apparently been translated into another language and, I assume, since Google knows my language is English, when it came up on my screen, it was computer-translated back into a language I could read. Sorta.

I'm going to post selected paragraphs of the twice-translated text in blue. Under each paragraph, I'll put Heidi's original questions (and my answers) in green. I suggest you read only the blue paragraphs and use the green ones if you get stumped. Some of the twists are hilarious, though if you think about each a bit, you'll see that, in a certain situation, this could be a synonym.

Hilarious or not, it is really miraculous that something could automatically be changed from one language to another and still carry a high degree of clarity.

Here's the posting. Remember, blue is how it came back to me. I've reproduced it faithfully, punctuation and all.

If you don't read anything else, read the last question and answer.

HEIDI: I'm happy to welcome Liz Adair to my blog today. Liz is the Pacific Northwest writer of five novels, including her new Western romance, Numbering the Cost, and she is co-editor of her mother's missives in Lucy Shook's Letters from Afghanistan Liz is besides cognized for her Spider Latham enigma series, for The Mist of Target Seaport, and learns shops on "Victimisation House History in fiction."

Counting the Cost is a marvelous, bittersweet narration that fall out in Land of enchantment in 1935. I take it this is slightly of a going from your usual composition. Say us what exalted this book.

HEIDI: I'm happy to welcome Liz Adair to my blog today. Liz is the Pacific Northwest author of five novels, including her new Western love story, Counting the Cost, and she is co-editor of her mother's letters in Lucy Shook's Letters from Afghanistan. Liz is also known for her Spider Latham mystery series, for The Mist of Quarry Harbor, and teaches workshops on "Using Family History in Fiction."

Counting the Cost is a wonderful, bittersweet story that takes place in New Mexico in 1935. I take it this is somewhat of a departure from your usual writing. Tell us what inspired this book.

LIZ: This is a leaving. My other books were totally carefully plotted, hold a spot of intrigue in them, are placed in modern-day times, and are lighter menu. Numerating the Cost but welled upwards inside me and coerced itself out my fingertips. I consider it was portion of my bereft procedure after my mother went, for the narrative discharge shadows her brother's life.

LIZ: This is a departure. My other books were all carefully plotted, have a bit of intrigue in them, are set in contemporary times, and are lighter fare. Counting the Cost simply welled up inside me and forced itself out my fingertips. I think it was part of my grieving process after my mother died, for the story arc shadows her brother's life.

HEIDI: I understand that you turned upwardly in Land of enchantment on a ranches. How makes that background influence your authorship?

HEIDI: I understand that you grew up in New Mexico on a cattle ranch. How does that background influence your writing?

LIZ: Really, it was my mother who turned au fait a spreads, but she conjoined a man who worked for the Office of Rehabilitation, so we were hydroelectric gipsies. Two of my uncles worked cowses all their lives, and trips back to Nm were full of cowhand narratives and horseback equitation.

LIZ: Actually, it was my mother who grew up on a cattle ranch, but she married a man who worked for the Bureau of Reclamation, so we were hydro-electric gypsies. Two of my uncles worked cattle all their lives, and trips back to New Mexico were full of cowboy stories and horseback riding.

HEIDI: How large a office makes placing drama in your books?

HEIDI: How bit a role does setting play in your books?

LIZ: Putting dramas a major function. One of my readers mentioned that I write on settlement people. I consider that Holds because I'm a settlement somebody myself, and it Holds a comfy voice.

LIZ: Setting plays a major role. One of my reviewers noted that I write about small town people. I think that's because I'm a small town person myself, and it's a comfortable voice.

HEIDI: You give shops on applying menage history in fiction. Is all of your fiction based on your house history?

HEIDI: You give workshops on using family history in fiction. Is all of your fiction based on your family history?

LIZ: All my fiction banks heavily on household history. I name it Viridity Fiction. Recycling, you cognise? It may merely be that I make n't hold any original thoughts. Or that I'm lazy. But, it works for me.

LIZ: All my fiction relies heavily on family history. I call it Green Fiction. Recycling, you know? It may just be that I don't have any original ideas. Or that I'm lazy. But, it works for me.

* * *
HEIDI: State us about Missives from Aftghanistan Were the missives pent to you?

HEIDI: Tell us about Letters from Afghanistan. Were the letters written to you?

LIZ: Yes. I was a immature mother when my parents attended Afghanistan in 1965. My mother and begetter both worked for the Office for International Develoment (Assistance). Pa was in charge of buying machinery and learning the Afghans how to hold it, and mother ran a little hotel/restaurant that catered to the American contingent and seing diplomatists. She holded fifteen Afghan manpowers working for her, and she got really regarded in their lives. She would indite long missives place about her interactions with them. Some missives were uproarious; some were affecting, but none were dull.

I was a busy ma and instruction school additionally, and I'd savor each missive and lay it forth. It was only geezerhood afterward, in 2001, when I attended redact the missives for the menange, that I observed what a treasure these missives were and what a window they were into the psyche of the Afghan provincials.

LIZ: Yes. I was a young mother when my parents went to Afghanistan in 1965. My mother and father both worked for the Agancy for Internation Development (AID). Dad was in charge of purchasing machinery and teaching the Afghans how to maintain it, and mother ran a small hotel/restaurant that catered to the American contingent and visiting diplomats. She had fifteen Afghan men working for her, and she became very involved in their lives. She would write long letters home about her interactions with them. Some letters were hilarious; some were poignant, but none were dull.

HEIDI: On the dorsum of your book is a indorsement telling that constituent of your book sales attend gain Portion Women Across lands (SWAN). Say us a trifle about this grouping.

HEIDI: On the back of your book is a blurb stating that part of your book sales go to benefit Serving Women Across Nations (SWAN). Tell us a bit about this group.

LIZ: SWAN is a humanistic outreach organisation that was started by my two girls, Ruth Lavine and Terry Gifford, and I the intention is to assist women and shavers through microloans, malaria medicine, mosquito nets and school supplies and uniforms. Terry is the motivating force, and it is she who visits Bolivia each year to superintend the microloan plan there, which includes a mini-business class and proceeding didactis as the women take out loans and go enterprisers.

Most of the support for SWAN comes from the Pattie Wagoon, Terry's grant laggard that you may see at ball games or at Sedro Woolley jubilations, and SWAN too patronize a Century Motorcycle Drive that cooccurs with Sedro Woolley's Blast from the Yesteryear. You can chance out more about SWAN by seing

LIZ: SWAN is a humanitarian outreach organization that was begun by my two daughters, Ruth Lavine and Terry Gifford, and I. The purpose is to help women and children through microloans, malaria medicine, mosquito nets and school supplies and uniforms. Terry is the motivating force, and it is she who travels to Bolivia every year to oversee the microloan program there, which includes a mini-business course and continuing education as the women take out loans and become entrepreneurs.

Most of the funding for SWAN comes from the Pattie Wagon," Terry's concession trailer that you may see at ball games or at Sedro Woolley celebrations, and SWAN also sponsors a Century Bike Ride that coincides with Sedro Woolley's Blast from the Past. You can find out more about SWAN by visiting

HEIDI: Thank you for sharing with us Liz.

LIZ: Thank you, Heidi. What luck to hold happend you manning your booth at the Sedro Woolley July 4 Jubilation. As I read your book about your gran, Cowgirl Dreams, I see that we hold much in common. We're kindred liquors.

LIZ: Thank you Heidi. What luck to have found you manning your booth at the Sedro Woolley Fourth of July Celebration. As I read your book about your grandmother, Cowgirl Dreams, I see that we have much in common. We're kindred spirits.

Follow this blog! Remember, the recipe for my world famous Apple Pie is coming. You don't want to miss that!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Am I Not a Man? The Dread Scott Story by Mark L. Shurtleff - A Review

It's been nigh on to sixty years since I was a fifth grader and first learned the name Dred Scott. So, it's not surprising that, before I read Mark L. Shurtleff's book Am I Not a Man?, the Dred Scott Story, I could not have told you (beyond a hazy, hazarded guess that it was about slavery), why the name was in my history book. I'm glad for the chance to renew my acquaintance with Dred Scott.

Mr. Shurtleff presents us history in an easily-assimilated form: in a tale or a fictionalized account of the events of Dred Scott's life. Though the word novel doesn't appear on the cover sheet of the book, it was described that way when I was asked to review it, and rightly so, for Mr. Shurtleff presents imagined conversations and actions of historical figures. The reader realizes that these conversations, and the unfolding events, though they spring from Mr. Shurtleff's imagination, are well grounded in history and the result of extensive research.

The book opens at a riveting point in the Dred Scott story: the Missouri Supreme court has just declared that Dred Scott is not free. Not only that, but through a twist of fate, in the intervening six years that Dred's case has been winding through the courts, his sympathetic former owner has died and ownership of Dred and his family has passed to a powerful, ardently pro-slavery family who demand restitution for the six years they have been deprived of profit from the Scott family's labors.

It is at that point that the book begins.

Mr. Shurtleff then takes the reader through the history of Dred's birth and how he arrived at the place where his suit for freedom was espoused by the family of his former owner and others willing to carry it to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Along the way, Mr. Shurtleff acquaints the reader with the currents of history that are flowing together to make the Dred Scott decision such a pivotal point in American History. I'm not going to reveal that here. If you don't remember it from your grade school or high school years, you need to read this book.

I teach workshops in "Writing Family History as Fiction", and one of the points I make, especially if I'm teaching at a Family History Conference, is that it's the stories that draw people in, that make people want to learn the names, dates, facts of what actually happened.

Mark L. Shurtleff has accomplished this here, because my readling list just expanded to include biographies of Chief Justice Roger Taney, a history of the Blackhawk War, and most of all, a biography of Dred Scott.

If you're interested in reading this book, click here to purchase in paper-and ink, here to buy in Kindle format.
Follow this blog! Remember, before Thanksgiving I'm going to give you my world famous apple pie recipe.