Doomseeds Has Arrived!

The exciting second novel in the Botanicaust Series is now available!

DoomseedsHow could a rescue mission go so wrong?

When Jubal, a friendly trader, arrives at the Holdout with news of Eily’s lost twin sister, Eily doesn’t hesitate to head into the cannibal wasteland to save her. But the government insists she carry a tracking device she knows will be the end of the people she once called family.

Jubal has always avoided two things: slave trading and the green-skinned Flame Runnas. But now a cannibal king is holding his father prisoner until he brings back a Flame Runna slave. Beautiful, green-skinned Eily makes the task easy, volunteering to come along. Easy until Jubal falls in love…

With a father’s life at stake on one side and a sister’s on the other, someone is going to have to lose. And the loser might just be humanity.

Butchering the Backyard Chicken

set-up for butcheringSome time in July, between netting salmon and harvesting cucumbers, the time arrives for the chickens to transition from the yard to the freezer. These little gems are between six and eight weeks old when I butcher. I buy day-old Cornish-Rock cross birds (actually, I get them in the mail – my post office is great about calling me the morning the birds arrive.) I’m not going to go into the details of raising them here. If you are interested, I will create another post on that topic.

Slaughtering a chicken

Insert the tip of the knife to the right of the neck bone with the blade facing out. Slide along the bone toward the front of the bird and pull the blade out to sever the muscle and buried artery.

This is an old traffic cone I nailed to a board. The cone hugs the bird’s limbs so it doesn’t break a leg or wing and it allows me to humanely sever the artery in the neck. The chicken barely makes a sound as the blood drains into a bucket below, and eventually just “goes to sleep,” as the neighborhood kids like to say. (I seem to always have an audience, but then, I am in my front yard, so what do I expect?)

Removing limbs

Once the bird is dead, remove the neck, legs, and wing tips. If you pluck, you may want to keep the wing tips, but I prefer skinless chicken, and there’s not much meat on the tips, anyway.

skinning

Carefully slide a thin knife up the breastbone between the meat and the skin, then pull it back to expose the meat.

breast exposed

off like a sweater

Pull the skin down the back and off the “arms” like removing a sweater, then the same with the legs until the skin comes off. Cut off the tail.

body cavity

Now that the skin is removed, it is time to open the body cavity. Be careful not to nick any internal organs as you slice the thin muscle just below the breastbone.

innards

Pull out the innards. Don’t forget to scoop out the lungs, which nestle between the ribs. If you want to save the liver, heart, and gizzard, put them aside.

Then dig your finger on either side of the backbone to remove the kidneys.kidney

Dig your finger on either side of the backbone to remove the kidneys.

hose it out

To really get the last bits of kidney removed, I jet out the inside with the hose.

Check for any bits of stuff you wouldn’t want to eat, paying particular attention to the neck area and the crevasses between the body and thigh.

I don’t recommend eating poultry immediately after butchering because rigor mortis makes the meat tough. I place the birds in a big cooler with ice water (well water here is around 38˚ F. If you need to use ice, do it.) Let them soak 24 hours, which allows the muscles to relax and removes extra blood. Then cut them up and freeze them according to your preferences.

cold waterLet me know what you think of my method! I’m always open to suggestions.

Gluten Free Italian Recipes

You Can Eat This Gluten Free Italian RecipesI’m pleased to announce the release of my latest gluten free cookbook — You Can Eat This! Gluten Free Italian Recipes. It’s stuffed with full-color photos and step-by-step instructions for each recipe. If looking at these photos doesn’t make you hungry, I don’t know what will.

I’ve made most of these dishes for years, and the real challenge was writing down the actual measurements (I often eyeball quantities when cooking at home.) The second challenge was the photography, mostly because I had to work fast to get the photos taken before my house gremlins (aka family) swooped in to take bites out of my finely arranged meals.

I don’t have a formal test kitchen for developing recipes. These are true, home-cooked recipes made in a real kitchen with easily acquired tools and utensils. Taste testing is my family’s favorite part of the process, of course, but besides feeding my family, I cook for guests, take food to test kitchenpotlucks, and share beloved recipes with friends who want to cook.

I hope you give my gluten free recipes a try! You Can Eat This! Gluten Free Italian Recipes is available online everywhere, but here are a few links to make it easy for you. From my family to yours — Buon appetito!

Kindle,   iTunes,   Nook,   Kobo, and apparently Amazon has already discounted the paperback, plus it qualifies for free super-saver shipping! Get your copy today!   Paperback

Pizza, Biscotti, Ravioli, Calzone – you can eat it all with these gluten free Italian recipes.

51 recipes with full color photos and step by step instructions.

Appetizers, like Tomatoes Parmesan and Fried Mozzarella Bites. Fresh, homemade pasta, including five different kinds of ravioli. Meat Dishes from Parmesan Crusted Halibut to Chicken Saltimbocca. A wide array of sauces for use on pasta, meat and vegetables. Breads ranging from Self-Rising Pizza Crust to chewy Focaccia Bread. For those with a sweet tooth, try baking Florentines or get more creative with homemade Cannoli or gluten free Tiramisu.

Help Someone in Need: A Book Bomb for Ben

Ben in intensive careBen Wolverton, age 16, was in a serious long-boarding accident on Wednesday the 4th, 2013. He suffers from severe brain trauma, a cracked skull, broken pelvis and tail bone, burnt knees, bruised lungs, broken ear drum, road rash, and is currently in a coma. His family has no insurance.

We are having a book bomb on Wednesday, April 10th, on behalf of Ben Wolverton, who is the son of the New York Times bestselling author David Farland (http://www.davidfarland.com/).

You can learn more about Ben’s condition, or simply donate to the Wolverton family here: http://www.gofundme.com/BensRecoveryBen2

What is a Book Bomb?

For those that don’t know, a Book Bomb is an event where participants purchase a book on a specific day to support the author, or, in this case, a young person in serious need: Ben Wolverton.

nightingalecoverDavid Farland’s young adult fantasy thriller Nightingale has won seven awards, including the Grand Prize at the Hollywood Book Festival—beating out ALL books in ALL categories. It has been praised by authors such as James Dashner (The Maze Runner), Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn), and Paul Genesse (Iron Dragon series), and has received four and a half starts on Amazon. You can read reviews here: http://www.amazon.com/Nightingale-ebook/dp/B006P7SEBY/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1365432857&sr=8-2

Some people sing at night to drive back the darkness. Others sing to summon it. . . .

Bron Jones was abandoned at birth. Thrown into foster care, he was rejected by one family after another, until he met Olivia, a gifted and devoted high-school teacher who recognized him for what he really was—what her people call a “nightingale.”

But Bron isn’t ready to learn the truth. There are secrets that have been hidden from mankind for hundreds of thousands of years, secrets that should remain hidden. Some things are too dangerous to know. Bron’s secret may be the most dangerous of all.

Nightingale is available as a hardcover, ebook, audio book, and enhanced novel for the iPad.

You can purchase it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble on the Nightingale website or, you can get the enhanced version, complete with illustrations, interviews, animations, and its own soundtrack through iTunes

milliondollaroutline coverIf you are a writer, you may want to consider purchasing David Farland’s Million Dollar Outlines instead. Both books are part of the book bomb. Million Dollar Outlines has been a bestseller on Amazon for over a month and is only $6.99.

As a bestselling author David Farland has taught dozens of writers who have gone on to staggering literary success, including such #1 New York Times Bestsellers as Brandon Mull (Fablehaven), Brandon Sanderson (Wheel of Time), James Dashner (The Maze Runner) and Stephenie Meyer (Twilight).

In Million Dollar Outlines, Dave teaches how to analyze an audience and outline a novel so that it can appeal to a wide readership, giving it the potential to become a bestseller. The secrets found in his unconventional approach will help you understand why so many of his authors go on to prominence.

Get it on Amazon or on Barnes and Noble,
Read one of the 26 reviews here: http://www.amazon.com/Million-Dollar-Outlines-ebook/dp/B00B9JYJ6W/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365434120&sr=8-1&keywords=Million+Dollar+Outlines

Would you like to just donate money? You can do that here: http://www.gofundme.com/BensRecovery 
If you can’t spare any money, but would still like to help, you can do so by telling others about Ben’s donation page, and/or this Book Bomb. Share it on facebook, twitter, pinterest, your blog—anywhere you can. We have an event page set up on facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/453677124707603/

Thank you!
Ben and his family greatly appreciate your support, and so do all who love and care about them.

Grandma’s Cooking

My grandma was my inspiration for cooking and baking. She was always creating new recipes, some for people with allergies, some with new food items she’d discovered, and always with a discerning palette. Several of the recipes in my cookbook originated from recipes she developed.

Grandma no longer cooks. She lives in a single room in a retirement community where her meals are provided. But I was delighted to receive this photo of her reading my cookbook.

Grandma reading You Can Eat ThisThank you, Grandma, for your love, support, and encouragement!

Do you have someone who inspires you to cook?

Rites of Spring – First Sight

Rites of Spring blog hopWelcome to this stop on the Rites of Spring Blog Hop! Read to the bottom for details on how to enter to win a Kindle Fire! For your enjoyment, here is an excerpt from Botanicaust; the first moment Tula sees the hero, Levi.

In an all-too-plausible future where Earth has been overrun by invasive, genetically modified weeds, a doctor with photosynthetic skin risks everything to save a man who refuses to be genetically modified. Together, can they find sanctuary in a cannibal wasteland?

In an all-too-plausible future where Earth has been overrun by invasive, genetically modified weeds, a doctor with photosynthetic skin risks everything to save a man who refuses to be genetically modified. Together, can they find sanctuary in a cannibal wasteland?

Tula jogged up the stairs from Confinement two at a time, headed to the duster pad outside. Heat from the tarmac slammed into her like a fist as she exited the climate controlled building, and she had to lift a hand to shield her eyes from the sudden sunlight. Two Med techs wheeled a screaming woman down the ramp on a gurney. Tula stepped aside so they could pass, assessing the prisoner’s swollen belly and shaking her head sadly. They’d keep the baby. But the woman was another matter.

At the door to the duster, Mo gestured to one of the other techs, hand on his weapon. He saw Tula and smiled broadly. She grinned back and loped across the asphalt.

“Hey, baby,” he said, pulling her close to his side with a one-armed embrace.

Inside the duster, two techs urged a male prisoner to his feet. The big man sat on his knees, palms pressed together as he mumbled. A flash of dizziness passed over Tula, and she swayed.

“Whoa,” Mo looked down at her. “You haven’t even kissed me, yet. Another Burn Op beat me to it?”

He liked to joke that she only stayed with him for the high of his kisses. She smiled weakly at him, glad to look away from the prisoner. “I can make my own drugs if I need to, thank you very much.”

He laughed and planted a kiss on her forehead. “Not if you never come out for air. You need me, baby.”

“What is this?” She indicated the man in the duster. The techs had him on his feet, but he kept his hands together and his lips moving.

“Hey, if they’re not struggling, I bring them in. I’d just as soon flash them all.”

She shuddered, well aware of his position on cannibals. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to prove consent?”

Mo shrugged and handed her a notebook. “That’s your job, not mine. He had this with him.”

She frowned at the book. Paper books were primitive, but cannibals were not known for their literacy. He must have found it in some ruins. She tucked the book under her arm and stepped within reach of the prisoner. Although he was huge for a cannibal, the captive remained incredibly docile. She spoke the Cannibal dialect, similar to, but simpler than Haldanian. “You hurt?”

The man continued his singsong drone, looking at the ground and ignoring her.

“He was with the mother?”

“Standing right over her. Didn’t put up one gram of resistance. Maybe you can convert a whole family,” Mo teased.

Tula pursed her lips in thought. A whole family? What a novel idea. She put a hand on the man’s shoulder. His sing-song grew louder, the cadence familiar in a way that made her tremble. She dropped her hand and backed away. Swallowing to regain her composure, she turned to the tech. “When the mother comes out of labor, put her and the baby in the cell with him.”

“Doctor?”

“The baby can wait for conversion a few days. We don’t often have a chance to study cannibal family dynamics. If we can better understand them, we might lower the reversion ratio.”

The tech raised his brows but nodded and herded the man across the tarmac. Mo grabbed her hand and pulled her the other direction. “Can you take off, now? Let the techs handle it tonight?”

“I have two children I really ought —”

He halted mid-step and pulled her into his arms, seizing her mouth in a kiss. The euphoric chemicals passed into her in a rush, making her head swim and her body flush with desire. He pulled back and she looked with blurred vision into his tawny eyes. “You really are high, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Want some more?” He kissed her again, running his tongue along her gum line. She swayed in his arms. “You’re a lightweight,” he murmured against her lips.

“Shut up and take me home.”

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for the  Grand Prize of a Kindle Fire! Second Place will be a $50 gift certificate at Amazon. In addition, Click here to be entered to win your choice of either a paperback copy of Botanicaust. I will contact the winner via email. (I promise not to send you any emails unless you win or otherwise request to be contacted.) Winners announced March 24th.

Click the link below to continue onto the next blog!

And the winners are: Grand Prize: Kindle Fire — Entry #4 – Karl

2nd Place: $50 Amazon gift certificate — Entry #187 – Chum B.

Signed paperback of Botanicaust — Entry #5 Mary Roya!

Congratulations everyone!

Smashwords Promotion

Image representing Smashwords as depicted in C...

Smashwords is celebrating its fifth year of the “Smashwords Read an Ebook Week” promotion, and Botanicaust is included! Simply enter REW50 at checkout, and the book is yours for only $1.50.

Read an Ebook Week is an international celebration of ebooks in which thousands of authors, publishers and retailers feature free and discounted ebooks to help promote the joys of e-reading to the world’s readers. Check out their list of discounted titles.

Hurry, offer expires March 9th, 2013!

Top 10 Vegetable Seeds for High North Gardens

zf Davy's cabbage

52 pound cabbage

Alaska – where long hours of daylight grow record breaking cabbages, but cause watermelon vines to only produce male flowers. Cool summer temperatures allow us to harvest peas in July and August, but ripen mealy and unpalatable tomatoes (if they bother to turn red at all.) Fruit trees which can survive -40˚F in Minnesota begin flowing sap during sunny April days, then freeze and burst when nighttime temperatures drop into single digits or lower.

I’ve been a Certified Alaskan Master Gardener for 14 years, and gardening for … well, let’s just say longer than that. I experiment with a few new seed varieties every year, but have largely settled into a reliable list of cultivars which I consider my go-to vegetables. I start almost everything inside and transplant after the last frost date.

Tomatoes – Siletz.

100_2929A few years back we had a summer where I don’t believe we had a single daytime temperature over 65˚F, and this tomato produced delicious fruit without a hiccup. I grow the bulk of my tomatoes in an unheated greenhouse, but also grow two pots of Siletz on my south-facing front porch every year with great success. Siletz is a slicing tomato, and in personal flavor tests, it beat other early ripening varieties hands down, with a tender skin and nearly seedless fruit. The flowers set fruit even when nighttime temperatures dip into the 40’s. Determinate plants are easy to grow in pots with support. Start seeds indoors in mid to late March.

Cucumbers – Cool Breeze.100_2867a

Cukes are iffy this far north, even in a greenhouse, but I always harvest enough from a couple of vines if I grow Cool Breeze. The plants are nearly all female, and they set fruit without pollination, a must-have trait for greenhouse growing. The dark green fruits have fine spines, almost like fuzz rather than spines, are seedless, and they pickle beautifully. They are also great fresh in salads or munched for a treat while gardening. Start seeds indoors in early May for transplanting in the greenhouse in mid May. Be very delicate with the roots when transplanting or the vine will refuse to grow.

Artichokes – Imperial Star.

Artichoke These plants are grown as annuals in Alaska. I average three jumbo chokes per plant with several smaller side chokes. While the plant takes up quite a bit of space, it is also ornamental for those of us who have gardens in the front yard. Start plants indoors in late February, and plant more than you need. Cull the scraggly looking seedlings because they will not produce well (believe me, you cannot baby them into fruition. Cull them.) The key to bud production is to trick the plants into thinking they are two years old. I do this by placing the seedlings in the greenhouse in late April and exposing them to temperatures below 50˚F but above freezing. They need a couple of weeks in these low temperatures, and you will enjoy the sweet, succulent taste of your own artichoke hearts.

Zucchini – Partenon or Cavili.

Zucchini in wall o water

Zucchini in Wallo’ Water

Alaskan summers are so cool, bees and other pollinators often stay under cover when flowering plants like zucchini need their attention. The result? Tiny, bitter fruits that rot at the blossom end. Rather than trudge out to the zucchini hill every day with a small paintbrush to play worker bee (usually in the rain, I might add) why not choose a variety that sets fruit without pollination? Partenon is a dark green, traditional zucchini squash, while Cavili is a lime-green variety with a fantastic, nutty flavor. Both produce loads of fruit, no matter the weather. Start seedlings indoors in mid May and transplant with extra care to the roots to prevent transplant shock. You can get an earlier jump on things if you use a Wallo’ Water as a mini greenhouse starting out.

Pumpkin, Pie – Baby Bear.

Baby Pam PumpkinThese vines ripen 2 pound fruits even in less than ideal weather. I’ve grown them successfully in the ground, but my favorite place to grow them is on top of my compost pile right after I turn it in the spring. I warm the pile with some clear plastic for a couple of weeks, and then transplant right through the plastic in early June. Start seeds indoors mid May and be extra gentle on those roots when transplanting or the vines will sulk and refuse to grow. If bees are reluctant in your area, take the time to go tickle the flowers; better pollination creates more and larger pumpkins. The little beauties make the best pie.

Tango celeryCelery – Tango.

Celery seeds, like carrots, take a while to germinate. Start them indoors in mid February and be patient while the spindly babies develop their root systems. Celery enjoys our cool season, and with plenty of nutrients and moisture, will grow into tall, succulent stalks. I harvest from the outside of the plant all season, as needed for cooking, and then bring the rest of the plants in for munching and cooking at the end of August.

Kohlrabi – Eder or Winner.

KohlrabiIf you haven’t heard of this vegetable gem, you should give it a try. The stem of the plant forms a bulb which, in our cool weather, can reach the size of a softball before becoming woody. Some people compare the texture and flavor to a nutty apple, or the inside of a sweet broccoli stem, but I say try it for yourself to decide. I love it fresh, chopped into salsa, or lightly steamed. You can also eat the tender leaves like salad greens or kale. Kohlrabi requires plenty of steady moisture to bulb without splitting, and because the edible portion of the plant grows above ground, it won’t be damaged by root maggots if those are a problem in your area.

Cauliflower – Cheddar or Bishop.

Like the name implies, this cauliflower isn’t white, its orange. My kids say it looks like its already covered in cheese. Cheddar resists turning purple, and makes nice sized heads if given steady moisture and nutrition. Break a few leaves to shade the head from the sun once it begins developing. If you prefer white cauliflower, Bishop is a good variety because it is less picky than other types and self-blanches to help keep the head white. Watch for slugs, which will climb over the top of the ripening heads and leave you with a slimy mess.

Onion – Copra.

IMG_2514The long hours of daylight this far north make long day onions a must. Copra stores well, which is a requirement for me. I grow onions from seed because seeds are cheap and I don’t run the risk of introducing new pests or diseases from infected plant starts. Sprinkle seeds in a 3″ pot in mid February and keep them watered. Fertilize with a weak fish emulsion every couple of weeks. When it is time to plant in May, split the root ball and tease the individual stalks apart to transplant. Onions do not tolerate weed competition, especially early on, so I cover the bed in about an inch of good compost and anchor 6 sheets of newspaper over the top, watering well. To plant, I poke holes every 4-6 inches and tamp the seedling in. The paper prevents chickweed and other weed seeds from taking hold.

Peas – Maestro or Serge.

100_2892One might think peas would do well up here, no matter the variety, but our long daylight causes some varieties to outgrow support fencing, reaching well over 8 feet, so I try to choose bush types. Maestro and Serge are supposed to reach about 2 feet, but usually top out at around 4 feet. Maestro is easy to tell when ripe, because the pods do not fatten until the peas fill them out (useful if you have young garden helpers) and Serge is a nearly leafless variety that makes seeing pods much easier during harvest.

Other vegetables which grow well up here are Broccoli, Cabbage, Lettuce, Carrots, Potatoes, Swiss Chard, and Beets. For these, I choose whatever seed suits my fancy from year to year, although I am partial to Nantes type carrots because they are so sweet. Bolero is a great storage carrot and we are usually eating the last of our fresh carrots from the garden in March or April. Potatoes grown up here will also be Bolero carrotsunusually sweet because of our cool soil. My Yukon Gold potatoes were monsters last year.

A special note on beans. In Alaska, they say there are lean years and there are bean years. I’ve had seasons where I harvested enough green beans to can a few. But I’ve had many more seasons where the handful I got were not worth the time and the garden space. If you want to try your hand at beans in the High North, Provider is a good start. Include some season extending techniques like row tunnels or IRT mulch. The same advice goes for corn, which I have grown successfully, but which is a gamble from year to year.

If you’ve had a different experience with these crops, or something of your own to recommend, I’d love to hear from you!

Seed packets

Territorial Seed Company, Johnny’s Select Seeds, and Seeds of Change

Amended 1/30: Rhonda mentioned she’s been growing watermelon successfully for a few years in Tok, so you might want to check out Blacktail Mountain watermelon seeds, available from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds. I plan on trying them this year!

Get your copy of Taking the Knife while they last!

In case you don’t know already, Taking the Knife, my Botanicaust short story, is free through January 21st on Amazon. Even if you haven’t read Botanicaust yet, get your free copy while you can. One review says, “It reads like a fascinating and fully developed world even in the short format of Taking the Knife…”

You can read it on your computer, your phone, your iPad, your Kindle, and probably lots of other devices I don’t even know about. Get your copy now!

Taking the Knife