Thursday, December 28, 2017

National Bacon Day

Wow! All these great holidays in the USA, so near to one another!  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and National Bacon Day!   Founded in 1997 by Danya “D” Goodman and Meff “Human Cannonball” Leonard, National Bacon Day is celebrated every December 30.  Bacon is one of my favorite foods and is also a favorite of Vic Challenger, the action-adventure heroess in my novels so I must pay homage.  Are you a baconeer, too?  Here are a few fun bacon facts and suggestions for celebrating that wonderful food.
> Eat bacon, obviously
> Use #baconday in your social media posts
        > Watch a Kevin Bacon movie (personally I really like the first “Tremors”)
> Read about Francis Bacon (1561–1626) He was a natural philosopher and leader in scientific research methodology.
> Make your own bacon (see below)
> Cook up some bacon to take to work and share with co-workers
> Enjoy this bacon song/video by Tessa Violet (she has a lot of other great music, too! Check it out while you're there.) Watch below or on Youtube
> Customize yourself some fashion bacon (see below)
> Attend a celebration if one is near you.

OK, how do you make bacon?  Actually, it is pretty simple but several steps.  Overview: trim pork belly to size, pack with salt and spice mix or soak in brine, let set, smoke, cut, cook, eat.  Tip: you can use any spice you like.    Here are two video links where you can watch the details to the process.
Making Bacon From Pork Belly - How To Cure and Smoke Your Own Bacon
How to Make Homemade Bacon

Here’s a bacon laugh:
Blind Bacon Taste Test >

Want a unique bacon?  Here are some ideas for tastes to add to your salt pack or brine when you make your own bacon or when cooking store bought.
Nutmeg    red pepper    black pepper    powdered mustard     pineapple juice
        Licorice flavoring     maple syrup     brown sugar      honey     orange (flavoring or juice)

Two ideas I didn’t see or try personally (yet) but they sure work with steak as a marinade: whiskey or beer.

Another idea popped into my mind.  I love cilantro with almost anything but as far as I know, you need the fresh herb for that flavor.  Wonder if that would work in the pack salt?  If that piques your curiosity and you try it, let me know how it turns out.
Formal celebrations happen, too.  I won’t try to list what’s available.  It a big world.  What is important for bacon lovers is that celebrations occur all year.  It seems like there are Bacon Festivals every month. Again, way too many to list, so here is my advice.  Search the internet but be specific.  If you just type “bacon fest” you will get them from everywhere and for past years.  Search for “bacon fest” (year, or month and year) (city or state).  Don't just think National Bacon Day.  Bacon themed festivals occur year-round, all over and many are paired with another food, like a bacon and beer day, or bacon and barbeque.
Here’s a parting gift before you rush to celebrate National Bacon Day - a recipe from Vic Challenger's Incredibly Delicious Recipes for Bacon Lovers.

 Bacon-Apple Pie
1 refrigerated pie crust
¾  cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tbs cornstarch
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½  tsp ground cardamom
½  tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½  tsp ground cloves
6 cups (½ inch thick) sliced peeled apple (5 apples)
12+  bacon slices
- Preheat oven to 350° F (176 C). - Stir together brown sugar, cornstarch & spices. Add apple slices, toss to coat. Pour apple slices & juices into crust.
- Arrange bacon slices in a lattice design over filling.
- Cover pie with aluminum foil. Place pie on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 1 hour. Remove foil. Bake for 40 more minutes or until crust is golden brown & bacon crisp.
- Remove pie from baking sheet, let cool for at least 1 hour before cutting into wedges.

This is one of 50 mouth-watering recipes in Vic's Bacon Book, available on Amazon in print or digital.

Don't forget! Celebrate!  Happy Bacon Day!  Until next time, don't be afraid, just do what needs done.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Never Give Up and when you're tired, Remind Yourself What's Important

This blog post is a bit different than those before.  It's mostly video

I made a new short video to highlight some of the newer posters available free of charge at the Vic Challenger website.    On all pages of the site you will find a link to Posters,  and there you will find posters in jpeg and pdf formats and you may help yourself.

Like motivational videos?  If you have never seen this guy's videos (Mateusz M), treat yourself.  Some are long in my opinion but I still like them  (3-7+ minutes)

Here is another great channel with even longer videos but they are also worth the investment.

Have a great inspired day!  Every day!


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Country Boys Win Freedom from Greatest Power on Earth!

Backyard cookouts, fireworks, day at the beach, parades, hot dogs - just a few of the things that come to mind related to Independence Day - 4th of July.   All great things, terrific ways to enjoy the celebration of the independence of the United States of America.   It is also a perfect time to dedicate at least a few minutes to forgetting everything else and reflecting deeply on what that really means and what it cost those who were here before us.  What would it be like if the didn’t do what they did?  What would be in Kansas right now, and Oregon and North Carolina and wherever you are?  How would the world be different?

In writing the Vic Challenger adventures I do quite a bit of historical research.  Most is related to 1920’s and years just prior.  Often though, that research leads me down  a fascinating rabbit hole to other times.  I constantly find interesting and surprising facts about everything.   So here I would like to share a few engaging bits of trivia about things which are far from trivial, all about the Revolutionary War.  It was the “big one”, where the United State of America began.     As you might expect, considering Vic Challenger is a woman,  I have included several items honoring the women who contributed.

First, let me share what started my thinking about the Revolutionary  War.  It was  the  photo below.  I first saw it (I think) on Twitter with the caption: Grocery shopping 1895.   It sounds cute, but it’s true.  Getting groceries and everything else was once much more difficult than now.  Sure, they had stores. That’s where you went for flour and salt and matches and bullets.  You shot and cured your meat and grew and canned your veggies.   I did a little math and realized, those brave souls who began this country did it 120 years before  the huntress in that photo and life certainly had to be even more harsh, but they did it and set a high standard for everyone who came after.

Augusta "Gusty" Higgins Farnham, circa 1895. Photo courtesy of Museum of Northwest Colorado   Grocery shopping.  Notice she has her knife out, ready to cut some steaks.  And before rifles they used spears and before that.... Don't complain so loud about grocery prices
So here are some interesting facts I found about the Revolutionary War.

1.  Camp followers are generally civilians who follow troops for gain.  One type was known back then as a sutler.  That was a merchant who followed troops and sold them goods from his wagon.  Prostitutes were another type of camp follower.  These two types have persisted.  Back then another group of camp followers were wives and families of soldiers.  Sometimes the families wanted to stay together, some families had nowhere to live if the husband went away.  Those women often served meals to soldiers, repaired torn clothing did laundry and other domestic chores and acted as nurses.

2. From the way back machine I recall reading about Molly Pitcher in elementary school.  (Strange what sticks in your mind, isn’t it?)  Her name was Mary but she was called Molly.  She was a camp follower and got the nickname Molly Pitcher from carrying pitchers of water to soldiers on the battlefield.  Many other women did the same.  Molly’s celebrity came from the Battle of Monmouth in 1778.  Her husband was member of a cannon crew and collapsed from heat exhaustion during the battle.  Molly took his place and kept the cannon firing for the battle and General Washington made her a non-commissioned officer to reward her bravery.  One of the links below will take you to a more detailed 3 page story of Molly (pdf).
Molly Pitcher was just one of the brave women who helped win the Revolutionary War.  Many traveled behind the troops and helped with chores like laundry and cooking.

3.  Margaret Cochran Corbin had a similar story to Molly, though sadder.  Her husband was also on a cannon crew.  When he was killed in battle Margaret took over.  Her story didn’t end as well.  She received wounds which mangled her jaw and left her without use of her left arm.

4.  I’m sure you remember Paul Revere.  I remember memorizing the poem (Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere).  There was a woman who did a similar act.  Sybil Ludington traveled forty miles on horseback through Putnam and Dutchess Counties to warn the militia that the British were burning Danbury, Connecticut.  Sybil was only sixteen.

5.   The Revolutionary War lasted 8 years, 4 months and 15 days:  April 19, 1775 to September 3, 1783.

6.  Probably no more than 7,000 patriots died due to battle but at least 17,000 died from disease.

7.  Smallpox was the big killer.  If it kept killing soldiers who knows how things might have turned out.  However, early on Washington ordered all recruits receive a procedure called variolation before going into battle.  It was a simple procedure which might sound disgusting to us but it worked.  Step one, make a cut in the arm of a healthy soldier.  Step two, wipe pus from a sore on a soldier with smallpox and smear it on the cut.  It worked.  It caused a lighter case of the disease and gave immunity.

8.  Do you remember that famous painting of Washington standing in a boat in a ice-clogged river?  Remember which river it was? It was the Delaware River on Christmas eve night, 1776.  His men routed the German Hessians in Trenton, New Jersey.   Troops who were expected to meet them didn’t show so they didn’t hold Trenton.  However, they had been losing battles and morale was low and the action and win at Trenton re-invigorated the effort.
Crossing the Delaware.  That stuff in the water is ice.  Can you imagine how cold it was? Christmas Eve. Imagine if you were splashed with that ice water and now the wind is hitting you.  "And I might get shot and killed when we get there." And no central heating to go to later.  Just a fire to crowd around, except for those on watch for a counter-attack.  Thank you George and company.

9.  That painting of Washington was painted by German American artist Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze in 1851.  He painted three versions and the original was destroyed in a bombing raid on Bremen, Germany in 1942.

10.  Motivational fact for you:  George Washington lost more battles than he won.  Yet he became a hero  and we won the war.  Remember the tortoise and the hare?

11.  Congress declared July 4th as an official holiday in 1870.  Christmas also became an officially recognized holiday that year.

12. The oldest continuous Independence Day celebration in the United States is the 4th of July Parade in Bristol, Rhode Island; it began in 1785.

13.  The White House held its first 4th of July party in 1801.

14.  Three presidents have died on July 4  –  James Monroe in 1831;  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both in 1826.

Don’t forget those country boys - mostly farmers and shopkeepers - who took on the most powerful nation in the world and won.  Life was already harsh and they chose to make it more difficult so the future would be better for them and posterity (that's us).  Ever wonder what our posterity will think of us?

Here are some links to sites where I gathered the info for this post.          where I found the photo of the huntress

Thanks for reading.

PS: If you are not on the blog at Blogger and want to make a comment but see no place below, click the title.  It will take you to this post on blogger and you can comment.  I'm not super tech and can't figure out how to make it show in feeds to other sites and support hasn't responded.

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Best Writing in the World

Take a Stroll Down Memory Lane

There is no way for me to prove it, but I am comfortable saying it is the source that encouraged millions of kids to read, write, draw, and imagine and when they grew up, they kept at it.  I have no doubt it gave to untold numbers hope and respite  from lives that were brutal, impoverished, and lackluster.  It could rightly be labeled the original material for reluctant readers and it came in a multitude of guises. Who is this ink-heavy paper super hero?

Pulp fiction.  Don’t agree?  Shame on you!  Keep reading.

Who wouldn't want to read what is behind covers like these?
I know for a fact, from experience, that there are many, many lost souls and unfortunates who don’t know what I’m talking about.  To those lamentables Pulp Fiction is a movie.   If that describes you (and even if it doesn’t), the  following will imbue your brain with a mental giant glow, make your muscles more firm and steel you to take on bad guys and monsters!  (Ps: it was a terrific movie!)

Technically, pulp fiction was fiction printed on cheap “pulp” paper.   Two other factors contributed to what has come to be called “the pulps”.  The steam powered printing press (steam = early electricity😋) was one and the other was publishing cheap, I mean unknown, authors.  When these three factors were combined it provided inexpensive entertainment for the masses.  Pulp is not a genre but included many.  Some popular genres/themes associated with pulp are:

Science fiction Westerns War     Detective/Mystery
Gangster Romance Fantasy Adventure
Aviation Sports Railroad Spicy

“The pulps” usually refers to magazines.  The one which sort of started the ball rolling was Argosy Magazine, published by Jack Munsey beginning in 1896.  By the 1930’s there were around 150 titles.  Some of the titles will ring a bell for some:  Amazing Stories, Black Mask, Dime Detective, Flying Aces, Love Story Magazine, Marvel Tales, Spicy Detective, Startling Stories, Unknown, Weird Tales and Western Story Magazine.

In the early days the term pulp fiction came to include  paperback books, ‘dime novels’.  Mass market paperbacks published from 1950 can also be referred to as pulp fiction but they are not pulps.

Because of the inexpensive nature of the pulps and some of the favorite themes, pulps were often looked down on by self-labeled sophisticates (aka highbrows).  Boy did they miss out.  The writers who penned early pulp is like a who’s who of awesome authors.

Mickey Spillane Mark Twain Robert Silverberg Poul Anderson

Isaac Asimov Zane Grey Jack London H. Rider Haggard

Agatha Christie Ray Bradbury Dashiell Hammett Edgar Rice Burroughs

Ellery Queen H. G. Wells Rudyard Kipling Stephen Crane

This tiny lists doesn’t scratch the surface.  For a list of about a hundred pulp authors go here

Vic Challenger is billed as the Queen of New Pulp Action Adventure.
In spite of the negative connotation given the term “pulp” in early days, and by some yet today, I have no qualms whatsoever about being associated with pulp and the awesome authors represented.  If I can light a candle beside their bonfires I will be a happy camper!

Mention must be given to house names since three of my obvious influences were written under house names.  A house writer was an author who was an employee of a publisher and wrote under a pen name with no rights to what they wrote.  Many series were written by several writers under the single pseudonym.

The Nancy Drew series was created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate and began in 1930 with The Secret of the Old Clock.  Listed author was house name Carolyn Keene and many authors wrote under that pseudonym, but the original writer and the one considered primary Nancy Drew author was Mildred Wirt Benson.  Next in order of involvement was probably Harriet Adams (Stratemeyer's daughter) who began to update the novels in 1959.  Nancy was a normal girl who studied hard, took responsibility seriously, and loved learning.  She enjoyed solving mysteries and never hesitated to help someone.  Sound a little like Vic Challenger?

Kenneth Robeson was a pseudonym used by authors for two awesome heroes - Doc Savage and The Avenger.  Of 181 Doc Savage novels all but 20 were written by Lester Dent.   All 24 Avenger novels were written by Paul Ernst.  Neither of these heroes had super powers.  They were extraordinary because they exercised, studied and trained.  Sounds like Vic. You and I can aspire to what they did - if we are ready to do a LOT of the aforementioned exercise, study and training.

Know something about pulp?  Let me leave you with a quiz.  Match column a with column b.  Answers below.   Use each number with only one letter.
1  Edgar Rice Burroughs A  Charlie Chan
2  Robert E Howard B  Nellie Gray
3  H. Rider Haggard C  The Domino Lady
4  Earl Stanley Gardner    D  Conan
5  Earl derr Biggers E  Dune
6  The Avenger F   Cthulhu
7  Jane Porter     G  Alan Quatermain
8  Wilma Deering H  Land of Hidden Men
9  H. P. Lovecraft I  The Curse of Capistrano
10 Frank Herbert J  Buck Rogers
11 Ellen Patrick K  Tarzan
12 Don Diego de la Vega L  Perry Mason

Good news.  Pulp is alive and well, though more difficult to find than it once was.  Here are a few pulp sites you will enjoy.       Great podcast of all things pulp.

Answers to Quiz
1  Edgar Rice Burroughs author of             H  Land of Hidden Men
2  Robert E Howard author of                    D  Conan
3  H. Rider Haggard creator of character     G  Alan Quatermain
4  Earl Stanley Gardner author of                L  Perry Mason novels
5  Earl derr Biggers author of                      A  Charlie Chan novels
6  The Avenger  one of his assistants is       B  Nellie Gray    
7   Jane Porter   wife of                                K  Tarzan
8  Wilma Deering female protagonist in      J  Buck Rogers
9  H. P. Lovecraft creator of                        F   Cthulhu  
10 Frank Herbert author of                         E  Dune
11 Ellen Patrick  name of the avenging       C  The Domino Lady
12 Don Diego de la Vega  aka Zorro           I  The Curse of Capistrano

I hope you enjoyed this fast excursion to yesteryear.  Were you a pulp fan?  What was your favorite?
If your appetite for pulp was awakened, try some Vic Challenger.

Thanks for reading.  
Book 2 in the Vic Challenger series

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Adventure is Important- You Don't Need to be a Monster Fighting Heroess or Hero to Have Adventure!

Adventure is an exciting, bold, or very unusual experience which usually presents a challenge and in some instances may involve hazardous or risky activity.   Get out of your comfort zone - that’s an adventure!

We owe a lot to adventurous spirits.  Civilization is a result of adventure.  Willingness to face the unknown is necessary to explore, whether it is exploration of a geographical area or an new idea.  In Time Doesn’t Matter, the first Vic Challenger novel, Vic goes hiking into the jungles of the Yucatan.  It is an adventure but it occurs to Vic how much more exciting it must have been for early explorers from Europe - with no map, no idea of distances involved, and no knowledge of dangerous wildlife or local inhabitants.

Adventures offer personal benefits, too.  One simple benefit is memories.  You likely don’t remember breakfast 27 days ago.  It was probably routine with nothing to make it memorable.   Routine is useful and aids in organization and getting things done, but it detracts for the uniqueness of the moment or day.  Life which is constant routine provides no reason to recall a day or week.  That’s what most of us call blah or boring.

Just as adventure has pushed the limits and boundaries of civilization, it does the same with us.  The more we stretch our personal limits and get outside what we call our comfort zone, the greater our capacity to do even more.  One part of that growth is simple knowledge.  We know more of “how” and knowledge (usually) grows from previous information.  Perhaps a greater portion of that personal growth is confidence.  Once I do this, then surely I can do that, and after that it should be no problem to….

Something which I personally think is very important about adventuring (Yes adventure is not only a noun - it is a seldom used verb; we tend to  say go on an adventure, or have an adventure.  That, I believe, is a digression.)  What do I think is as important as confidence and knowledge?  Pizzazz!  Fun!  Thrill!  Boring feels safe and steady but an adventure makes the heart beat faster, pumps out the adrenaline, clarifies thoughts and simply makes life more interesting!

A wonderful feature of adventure is its relativity.  We have all witnessed how excited a child gets in the toy isle of the store or visiting the park or just seeing a big truck!  To us it may be un-noteworthy, but to the child it is new and thrilling!  A fabulous aspect of that relativity is it doesn’t  grow old.  Whatever your age, adventuring requires only that you do something out of YOUR ordinary which means we can all forever be an adventuress or adventurer!  You may not have the physical capacity to visit the South Pole.  You may not have the finances for a well out-fitted expedition up Mount Everest or to buy a ticket on a space ship.  Yet, an adventure just requires something different and out of your comfort zone.   The only routine Vic Challenger subscribes to is regular adventuring!
Wonderland can be anywhere.  Find Yours!
Don’t let tomorrow be a photocopy of today!  Get adventuring!  If just the thought causes trepidation to set in, begin with mild attempts and work you way up.  Don’t stop.   This is a life long venture and with practice you will inevitably become an intrepid adventuring fool!   (Remember Mr T as BA Baracus on ‘The A Team”, fool?)   If you need a suggestion to begin your life of enhanced adventure, here are a few ideas.

1. Leave for work early and take a new, more ‘scenic’ route.
2. Read an adventure book.  (May I suggest a Vic Challenger novel?)
3. Visit a library and browse books, the real kind, printed on paper.  Exploration!
4. Go to a sporting event you have never attended. If you go to all the football or baseball games, they don’t count.  Try a swim meet, golf tournament, track meet, rodeo or archery championship - anything new to you.
5. Begin a journal.  Write everyday and challenge yourself to have something “more” to write about daily.
6. Exercise.  Study it.  Create your own workouts and have at least 7 - one for each day.
7. Play games - with other people!  Poker, Monopoly, Chess, Bridge, Billiards, _________
8. Play kids games - jackstraws (pick up sticks), jacks, jump rope, etc.  If you are over 25, really think your eye hand coordination stays the same without practice?
9. Do number one and stop at a coffee shop you have never visited.
10. Strike up a conversation with a stranger.  Or just pick a busy block, walk down it and look directly at everyone you pass, smile and say something fab, like “Good Morning!”
11. Join a social club, book club, or something like Toastmasters.
12. Visit an amusement park.
13. If you never go to the movies, go.  If you usually go to movies, go to a play or opera.  In other words -something different.
14. Eat at an ethnic restaurant that serves food you have never tried.
15. Have a picnic at the park this weekend.
16. Next time it rains, go out and play in it.
17. Begin a collection - dolls, match books, coins, post cards, figurines, _________.
18. If you don’t cook, make something every night for a week (without help beyond a cookbook).
19. If you are not a student, take a class.  Anything will do - Calculus? A craft?  A language?
20. Schedule problems with 19 at a formal class?  Buy a book and learn on your own.
21. Take up a sport - bowling, tennis, rock climbing, fishing, hiking, _______.
22. Go hiking, camping, fishing this weekend.
23. Take a weekend or Saturday road trip.  Cruise some back roads near home.
24. Become a runner (or walker)  Sign up for 1 mile and 5k fun runs, and 10k races.  Work up to half marathons, marathons and ultra marathons or just do 5k races to get that t-shirt!
25. Change jobs.
26. Have a mini adventure.  Find a zip line, go canoeing or kayaking, hang glide, bicycle road trip, sky dive, snorkel, dirt bike, go hunting, race a go-cart, ski,  hot air ballooning, fly kites, __________.
27. Did you and your spouse enjoy dancing before you were married but haven’t gone in years?  What are you waiting for?  Go this weekend and once a month go to a different place.

What are your suggestions?

One last word.  This list feels paltry.  I ran across a neat website you should check out.
A hobby is a great way to inject some adventure into your life.  This site lists 308 hobbies!  In the comments, people have mentioned even more!

PS: Two of the greatest gifts you can give your kids (or nieces, nephews, etc.) are the memories and confidence of adventuring with you!

Want to read some great adventures?  Fight bad guys and monsters?  Ride with Vic Challenger!
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Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Tasty, Versatile Treat from South of the (USA) Border

If you read Vic Challenger novels you will always see mention of food, for several reasons.  Vic is a travel writer so often writes about local food in the places she visits so it seems natural that food be mentioned.  Trivia about local food is in the novels as one way to give a sense of time and place and food is part of life. A heroess, no matter how daring, slings her backpack on the same as you or I and she needs to eat like us, too.  Therefore, you will see recipes or other food articles here from time to time, based on something Vic Challenger ate in one of the novels.

In Vic Challenger book #1, Time Doesn’t Matter, Vic requests atole for breakfast.  Specifically, she requests chilitole which is atole with hot chilis added.  Yes, that is my favorite, too.    Other names are sometimes used depending on ingredients, usually with similar construction - (something)tole or atole de xxx.  Some examples:
Atole de cacahuate Atole. with ground peanuts
Atole de Fruta Atole with puréed fruit. Usually made with cornstarch rather than with masa                                          harina.
Atole de Pina with pineapple
Atole de Chicaros   with peas
Atole de Masa con Epazote   Epazote is an herb - Vic takes some seeds home for her hothouse.
Champurrado chocolate atole

Just as there is no single recipe for soup, there is no single way to make atole..  

Masa is flour made from corn (more complicated than that, but that is basically what it is).  Masa is a common ingredient for any atole.   The most basic recipe for atole is:  masa, unrefined sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.  I’m going out on a limb but from what I’ve seen, the varieties of atole available are only limited by your imagination.  Any fruit, vegetable or nut you can liquefy can be used to flavor atole.  Coffee is used also.  Mix the ingredients in water and boil,   Or use milk in place water or combine milk and water.  A common variation is to replace  masa with another type of flour (harina de arroz - rice flour), or rice or oatmeal.   Another oft used switch is a cinnamon stick instead of ground cinnamon.

Just a little extra work but a more traditional way to prepare:  Toast the dry ingredients (masa,  sugar, cinnamon, nuts, cocoa) on a griddle or in a skillet before adding to liquid.  Be careful not to burn them.  The heat will enhance flavors

Ideally, you don’t put too much masa.  Although atole can be served a little thick like oatmeal or Cream of Wheat®  it is most often thinner, served as a drink.  Try for the consistency of cream soup (cream of broccoli, cream of mushroom, clam chowder). Of course, it doesn’t need to be one or the other -  liquid or thick. Think chowder.  Add whole kernel corn or whole peas or what you like.Ask at a restaurant or be happy with what you get.  The thick / thin preference  can be regional and the cook may just make it the way s/he had it growing up.

Atole can be served anytime, but breakfast and cold weather are two indications to make atole!  In Latin America it is sometimes sold on the street and it is a traditional treat on the Day of the Dead in Mexico.  If there is a Latin grocer nearby, you can get the authentic ingredients or even get an instant atole.  Since you can prepare atole sweet, salty, spicy, thick or thin, with fruits or vegetables, it has to be one of the most versatile options - remember that next time you wonder what to have for dinner.

This link will take you to two recipes for atole.  While you are there, check out the whole site.  You will find some awesome Mexican recipes!

 I  haven’t tried it but I’m thinking that grits could be used and you could add an egg while it is boiling.  Then drop in some bits of cooked bacon.   That would be like one of my favorite breakfasts - bacon, eggs, grits - in a drink!  Or would it be more like egg drop soup with bacon?   Whichever, it sounds good.  Let your imagination guide you!  Traditional or experimental?  Let your palate guide you!

Have you had atole? No? You should!  Yes? What’s your favorite?

Thanks for reading!

Jerry Gill

Read a Vic Challenger novel today!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Changes in Human/Political Geography - Why Old Maps Might Confuse You

Alert: There is a quiz below and it is followed by the answers.  Don't look ahead!  Yes, I know you wouldn't but they might.

Pre-ramble: It never fails - I learn much every time I write a blog post or Vic Challenger novel.  When I began  this post I suspected I was talking  about geography.  It occurred too me that there may be different types of geography.  I won’t go into detail of all I learned but here is the top level in brief.  Two main categories of geography are human and physical and both are subdivided into several specialties.   I believe what follows would fall under the main category Human Geography and it’s subcategory of Political Geography.  If you are a geographer and I’m wrong, please leave a comment with correct info.

I do a lot of research for the Vic Challenger novels and much  of it focuses on places.  What we see on maps today is definitely not what Vic saw in the 1920’s.  For example, on the trip to Mongolia (Vic #2) their steamer makes a stop in Formosa.   We call it Taiwan although the island I believe is still Formosa island.  In the 1600’s Holland and Spain had colonies on the island so there was a Dutch Formosa and Spanish Formosa.  Vic and Lin Li spend time with Lin’s relatives in Peking.  Today the maps show Beijing.  I discovered that residents of Beijing have always called it that.  It was the rest of the world who called it Peiping, Pekin, or Peking.  More trivia: Beijing is the longest running political or cultural capital city in the world, 3000 years plus.

In the beginning of Vic: Mongol there is a map.  It shows Peking.  It  also shows Dalan bulag and Urga.  If you look at a modern map you won’t see any of those.  To date, I guess finding the name Dalan bulag has been the most difficult search for Vic’s history.   I learned that most cities in Mongolia have had name changes, often attributable  to who most influenced them - Russia or China.   That led  to look for the names of cities in 1920.  I found zip about Dalan bulag (looking at it’s present day name).  Research librarians in Hawaii didn’t find anything.  They contacted librarians in Mongolia.  They could find no reference so they questioned senior professors at a university.  Some remembered it.  Dalan bulag or 70 Springs.  Today’s maps show Dalanzadgad.   Urga on that map in Vic #2 is the capital, now known as Ulaanbaatar or some maps may show Ulan Bator.  Chu, Vic’s guide in Mongol, points out that what we know as the country of Mongolia was called Outer Mongolia and Inner Mongolia is a region of China.
This is the map at the beginning of Vic: Mongol.  I changed the names of only three cities to their 1920 name. Peking, Dalan bulag and Urga are not on contemporary maps.   Probably several of the others were also called something different from today.

You probably have heard the term “Bohemia”.   Geographically speaking, Bohemia was the traditional name before 1918 for what is now the Czech Republic.

How good are you  at historical political geography?  Here are ten places Vic Challenger could visit in 1920 which have different names now.  Do you know the new names?  Answers below quiz.

1. Petrograd
2. Burma
3. Siam
4. Constantinople
5., Ceylon
6. Persia
7. Abyssinia
8,    Ubangi-Shari (Oubangui-Chari)
9.    Chosun
10.  British Honduras

1,   St Petersburg. St. Petersburg to Petrograd 1914 to Leningrad 1924 back to St. Petersburg 1991
2.   Burma  to Myanmar 1989
3.  Siam to Thailand (1939)
4.  Constantinople to Istanbul in  1930,  Way back (660 BCE to 324 CE) it was a  Greek colony called Byzantium.  Remember that from world history class?
5.  Ceylon - 1972 the name was changed    to "Free, Sovereign and Independent Republic of Sri Lanka", in 1978 it was changed to "Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka".
6.  Persia to Iran 1935
7.  Abyssinia to Ethiopia  1974.  The Abyssinian Empire also encompassed parts of modern Eritrea, Djibouti, Yemen, Northern Somalia and more.
8.  Ubangi-Shari (Oubangui-Chari) became Central African Republic in 1960.
9.   Chosen was the official name for Korea when it was a Japanese province 1910–45.
10. British Honduras  became Belize in 1973.

If you also find this topic interesting, here are some good resources for more information about this subject.

If you would like to brush up on geography, here are two great sites:

What do you know about where you live?  There were probably small towns nearby which are gone; what we commonly call ghost towns.    There are likely roads which have been renamed, too.   Just imagine what might be changed by 2120!

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Vic Challenger and the Mysterious Cryptids

First of all, for anyone not sure, here’s a quick definition of a cryptid - A living thing suspected or reported but not confirmed officially or scientifically. I use the term ‘living thing’ because, even though animal cryptids are most popular, plants can be cryptids, too. Famous examples include Bigfoot, unicorns, sea serpents, and chupacabra.

Does Vic Challenger run into cryptids? She does. Like Vic novels in general, there was no grand plan to begin, it just comes pouring out. The cryptids just show up. So far, (books 1-5) Vic has encountered a thunderbird, death worm, Nessie, great apes where they shouldn’t be, drop bears, bunyips, thylacines and cannibals.

There may be some argument about that last one - cannibals. Humans are living things and if they are in or near populations of other humans but unknown (living among us!) does that count? Sort of a rhetorical question, since the answer doesn’t really matter, but it is the kind of question that consistently pops up in the research for Vic Challenger novels.

There is a categorization of cryptids called ‘Eberhart’s Classification’, proposed by George Eberhart of the American Library Association. Here is a brief version:

1. Distribution anomalies
2. Undescribed, unusual, or outsized variations of known species
3. Survivals of recently extinct species
4. Survivals of species known only from the fossil record into modern times
5. Lingerlings, or survivals of species known from the fossil record much later into historical times than currently thought
6. Animals not known from the fossil record but related to known species
7. Animals not known from the fossil record nor related to any known species
8. Mythical animals with a zoological basis
9. Seemingly paranormal or supernatural entities with some animal-like characteristics
10. Known hoaxes or probable misidentifications
You can read more about it here:  

Cryptids do sometimes turn out to be real.  Check this out.
Until 1901 scientists thought the Okapi was a myth.  

Here is another great resource.  Lists 50 cryptids and reference books for further delving.

In case you are wondering, things like the coelacanth fish are not cryptids. To be a true cryptid the existence of the creature must be disputed. For those who aren’t aware, the coelacanth is a species thought to be extinct for millions of years - until fishermen caught one in 1938, and more have been caught since. That made me ask another question which I haven’t checked. Has the coelacanth been added to the endangered species list? If I caught one, could I mount it and show it off over the mantle?  Great site to learn all you want to know about the coelacanth (a Smithsonian site)

Scientists thought the coelacanth became extinct millions of years ago.  Then one was caught in 1938. Now 2 distinct species of living coelacanths have been identified.

The question has been asked, “Will there always be cryptids in Vic Challenger novels? Since there is no true formula or plan, it is hard to say always, however, yes, always- Vic meets up with both cryptids and bad guys in all her trips.   If interested, here is a another list of cryptids to begin your deeper research.

Also, the reference notes for each Vic Challenger novel always include the references used for cryptid info,  It’s at the website
Many of the “monsters” Vic runs into are cryptids so I’ll be writing more about specific cryptids in future postings. Let me know what you think of cryptids and I would especially be interested if you have ever seen one.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Early 20th Century Roads in America - Why Vic Challenger Rode the Train

Vic Challenger was doing her thing in the 1920’s and it was a really different world.  I run across facts for every book that make me think “Wow!”  Take roads for example.

In book 4, ‘Terror Incognita’, Vic and friends take a road trip from Beatrice to the Northwest corner of Nebraska for a camp out.    I was pretty sure there were no interstate highways but wasn’t sure of the state of roads.  Dirt.  Almost certain, they were driving on a dirt road. One source stated going twenty miles a day was good travel then.  I believe a horse can do that.   Here are some interesting facts I discovered.

In the beginning, roads were foot paths.  Then wagons and buggies took the same route and they widened to roads.  So way back, building roads was no big enterprise, just get enough people riding the same path for awhile and it’s a road.  As far back as 1815 there was something called the National Road from Maryland to St Louis to make it easier to migrate to the center of the country but it was dirt and had no official entity to take care of it.

In 1920 there were some cement, brick and gravel roads but mostly in cities.  All roads back then were created by the state or more likely the local people of a city or region.

In 1919, Lt. Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower led a convoy from Washington D.C. To San Francisco to spotlight then need for good roads.  It took two months and that was too slow.  It was a national security issue.

The “first road across America” was the Lincoln Highway which ran from New York to San Francisco.  It began as work by local municipalities an companies.  Cement companies, for example, poured miles of road to improve local transportation.  It was completed in 1923.

There was a Federal Highway Act of 1921 which was funded in 1926 and the federal government officially got in the act.  Roads were named “U.S. #” and the system is still used.  The Lincoln Highway became part of U.S. 30.

In 1956 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation that began the Interstate Highway system we enjoy today.   In 1990, President George Bush signed legislation that renamed the national system of interstate highways the Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways.

What about those things we complain about?  Who’s to blame?  First state to use taxes for road construction was New Jersey in 1891, followed by Massachusetts and Virginia in 1892.

Massachusetts and New York were the first states to collect license fees in 1903.

Not related to roads in 1920, but have you ever wondered how interstate highways are named?  Major routes are designated by single- or two-digit numbers. If a route runs north-south, it is given an odd number, and if route a runs east-west, an even number. For north-south routes, numbering conventions begin in the west. Thus I-5 runs north and south along the West Coast, while I-95 runs north and south along the East Coast. For east-west routes, numbers begin in the south.

Next time you think that pot hole is horrible, remember 1920.  Now you know why Vic Challenger takes the train.   Have any interesting trivia about road you would like to share?  Post in comments.

Here are some references if you want to learn more:   IF YOU ARE PLANNING A ROAD TRIP you need to check this out.  All kinds of great info.  They have forums but you need to sign up and be approved to participate.  Obviously I did.

For exciting adventure reads go with Vic Challenger!  Visit  us

Here are some photos of the 1919 convoy led by Eisenhower.  More photos at

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Action Adventure Heroess Vic Challenger Gets a New Look

I am currently in the final 3 weeks or so of a big modification project.  The Incredible Adventures of Vic Challenger is being modified.  Can’t recall every hearing of that done, at least not with that word - modification.  I anticipate a few people wondering about what that means so decided to do a blog post that details the project.  If someone asks I can refer them to this post for all the info.

First of all, if you have read any of the Vic series, no, the stories have not changed.

What was done to the novels?

1. Every book is getting a new cover.  I bought a font, “Adventure”, that is used on all covers and will be in the future.  The spines are formatted so series number at top and publisher logo at bottom a positioned the same on all books.  One section of copy on the back cover is now standardized.  There will be some illustration still since it is difficult to find a dinosaur or monster to pose for a cover.  What’s new is the real life Vic Challenger.  Covers will all, for foreseeable  future, have a model portraying Vic Challenger!

2. Interiors were reformatted. Paper was changed.  Headers were added. Drop caps are used to begin chapters.  Gutters are about 1.5 letters wider.  Some chapter titles were changed.  A bibliography was added at the end of each novel.  Yes, that last may  seem strange, but Vic novels are historical and I work to make them accurate even in small details.  “What used to be” just 100 years ago, I find fascinating and thought some readers might, also.  It’s only one or two pages, but gives web site for complete list of references used for each book.

3.  Of course, those changes required changes in trailers, web sites, Youtube, Pinterest, and headers on all social media.  Digital versions had to be re-done.  Many posters are being re-done to feature real-life  Vic.

4.  Novel one, Time Doesn’t Matter, required a little extra work.  Originally, it was 5.5 x 8.5.   5x8 was used for novel 2, Mongol, and I like it better so used it thereafter.  Now novel #1 is also 5x8.

5.  Also been working on what may turn into a parallel series of shorts.  They would be illustrated stories of 10k words or so.   First one is done - needs editing.

6  PCIP data is added to all books also.  That is cataloging used for libraries.

7.  The series is no longer exclusive on Kindle.  It is going through Ingram and among other things that means they will become available on ibooks™.

I’m sure I have forgotten to mention something.  As is the case with many large projects, it wasn’t all smooth sailing, either.  It took much longer than anticipated but I am personally very happy with what I already see.  Hopefully, readers will like the changes, too.

Novels 1-3 “refurbished models” should be up later this week

Now I want to ask favors and offer a freebie.   Book #1 is changed enough that it may lose it’s reviews on Amazon, I was told it will be checked by AI, an algorithm I’m sure.  If that determines it to be same book, I keep reviews. If not, they’re all gone.  If it checks page against page, reviews are gone.  The change in size means what WAS on page 10 WILL BE somewhere around page 14.  Of course, reviews are always welcome.
I’ll trade you.  I’ll gift a printed or kindle copy of Time Doesn’t Matter in return for an honest review.   If interested, email with an address for print or specify you want kindle.

Join a Vic group.  Sandra Hould has a Vic Challenger Facebook  group.  You can join at

Become a friend of Vic.   Get some fun swag and be notified when something new is up with Vic
Thanks for reading.
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