Saturday, August 28, 2010

Down-home Cornbread

This recipe is from The Good Land by Patricia B. Mitchell. She tells of the strong influence Native Americans and the corn they grew had on the early colonists. Corn became a vital staple in the colonial diet, and still is on us today.

11/2 c. cornmeal, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 cups corn kernels, drained, 1 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 cup grated cheese

Mix together dry ingredients. In a separate large bowl combine the remaining ingredients, then stir in the dry mixture. When moistened throughout, spoon into a well greased 10 1/2-inch iron skillet. Bake at 350 F. for 45 minutes. Makes eight large moist wedges rather like spoon bread.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Native American Historical Romance Novel Red Bird's Song

Red Bird’s Song is the story of my heart for many reasons. It's the first novel I ever wrote, rewrote, and learned how to write in the process of all those endless revisions. It's also the story I've cared most deeply about and connected with on various levels. Part of me is still seated around the circle at the fire with my Native American brothers and sisters.

The initial encounter between Charity and Wicomechee at the beginning of the story was inspired by a dream I had on New Year’s Eve–a highly propitious time for dreams–about a young warrior taking an equally young woman captive at a river and the unexpected attraction between them.  That dream had such a profound impact on me that I took the leap from writing non-fiction essays to historical novels and embarked on the most amazing journey of my life.  That was years ago and the saga continues. 

I also met the prophetic warrior, Eyes of the Wolf, in another dream at the advent of this adventure, so when I describe him in the book I’m envisioning a character I feel I know.

The setting for much of Red Bird’s Song is the same as my other strongly Native American novel, Through the Fire, the spectacular Alleghenies.  
Much of the history depicted in the story was inspired by accounts I came across while researching my early American English/Scots-Irish roots and the Border Wars. The French and Indian War is the most well known, but there were others.  Life in the frontier was unsettled even after The American Revolution had drawn to a close and warfare a reality. The boundaries of the frontier just keep shifting farther west. 
In the early-mid 18th century, the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia was the colonial frontier and only hardy souls dared to settle here.  The bulk of these were the tough Scots-Irish.  If the Indians had only had to fight regular British troops they might ultimately have won because they scared the s— out of men trained for conventional warfare, but the long knives were another matter.  They weren’t easily intimidated and soon learned from their cunning enemy.
Although Hawk Eye in The Last of the Mohicans is an adopted Mohican, his lifestyle and behavior is that of a colonial frontiersman.  The more rugged of these men dressed as he did, much in the Indian way.  They hunted & fought with muskets, tomahawks, and their famous knives.   Indians acquired these knives as well.  They blended traditional weapons and ways of living with newfound tools and weapons of Western man.  A highly adaptable people.
The attack at the opening of Red Bird’s Song in the Shenandoah Valley is based on one that occurred to my ancestors and is recorded by Historian Joseph A. Waddell in The Annals of Augusta County. A renegade Englishman by the last name of Dickson led the war party that attacked them.  Initially I’d intended to make the Colin Dickson in Red Bird’s Song a villain but as soon as he galloped onto the scene I knew differently. 
Wicomechee, the hero in Red Bird’s Song, is based on the Shawnee warrior by that name who lived early in the nineteenth century and to whom I have ties.  The Moffett’s, an early Valley family I’m related to, include a reference to him in their genealogy.  Wicomechee’s father, John Moffett, was captured in Kentucky by the Shawnee at the age of eight and adopted into the tribe.  It’s said he was a boyhood companion to the great chief Tecumseh, a chief for whom I have enormous admiration.  
The accounts of John Moffett and Wicomechee are recorded by Waddell. It’s also noted that during the Black Hawk Wars Wicomechee recovered the captive daughters of a Dr. Hull and brought them safely into camp, which reminds me of Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans.  I’ve included more on this amazing warrior at the end of the novel as a bonus for those who read it.
Red Bird's Song is available in print and/or digital download at the Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes&Noble and other online booksellers.  Your local bookstore can order the novel in as can your library if you ask them to.   To read excerpts from the novel visit this post:

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I love this song by the stellar composer Rachel Portman, the main titles from the 2002 movie adaptation of the classic Dickens novel, Nicholas Nickleby, starring Charlie Hunnam and Jamie Bell. I haven’t actually seen the film yet, but I shall and will return with a review after I do. If the film is anything like the music, it must be fabulous.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Big Scarlet Pimpernel Fan Here!

I don’t know how with all my posts on British films I missed doing one on The Scarlet Pimpernel.  More than one, actually, considering the various productions, and I’m the insatiable sort who’s hoping there will be yet another version out soon.  You can’t have too many Scarlet Pimpernels.

Of course, I’ve read and reread the book (s) by the incomparable Baroness Emmuska Orczy since I was a teenager.  So if you haven’t, do! The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of the most romantic and intriguing tales ever told.  I rank it up there with the best! The world Ms. Orczy creates seems very real, as do Sir Percival Blakeney and Marjuerite St. Just, but they are fictional characters.

Whether or not Ms. Orczy based the Pimpernel on a historical figure has been much debated.   She was certainly absorbed in that time period and highly knowledgeable.  Her work inspired me to research the French Revolution and set my latest story in 1789 England during the kick off of that bloody episode in history.  Not the height of the Great Terror as Ms. Orczy chose for the Pimpernel.  Rather, I opted for an earlier time in the Revolution.  My hero isn’t the Pimpernel (I wouldn’t even attempt to go there) but the explosion across the channel is a prominent story element.

As much as I enjoy the various takes on the Scarlet Pimpernel, I still haven’t seen one that I felt utterly captured Sir Percy Blakeney and Marguerite St. Just, Lady Blakeney, although some actors have made a stellar effort. I’d like to see a film version that more closely follows the book, and maybe I’ll never be totally satisfied with anything  as it’s impossible to fully reproduce the story.

The 1982 version with Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellen is my favorite, although the three part BBC series that came out in 1999 is a close second.  Of course, I own all of the above.  I didn’t like Elizabeth McGovern (1999) in the role of Marguerite as much as I did Jane Seymour, but Richard Grant made a scintillating Pimpernel.  I liked him a lot,  and Anthony Andrew (1982) such an elegant, handsome  Pimpernel.  I’m hopeful that some day another actor will take on this supreme challenge.

I was fascinated with the 1999 production’s take on Paul Chauvelin in the form of Martin Shaw.  Shaw brought so much depth to that character, especially in the third production in that series.  I loved Chauvelin’s tender relationship with his errant daughter.  Very touching.  Who knew Chauvelin could have a heart?  I don’t think Ms. Orczy would approve, but it was a great spin.

For your viewing pleasure, I’ve included some clips of the above mentioned productions.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

If You Like Native American Historical Romance

If you're a fan of Native American historical romance (or historical romance in general) you’ve come to the right place.  I’ve labored over several strongly NA novels, done meticulous research, and written from my heart as I feel profoundly for Native Americans.

To date I have two novels, Through the Fire and Red Bird’s Song, published by The Wild Rose Press that are Colonial Native American Romances with a strong The Last of the Mohican’s flavor and a mystical weave. The colonial frontier is my particular passion, particularly the Virginia frontier which used to be vast  and the Ohio territory. 

A third novel The Bearwalker's Daughter, is a historical fantasy, also carefully researched so the history in it is accurate while the story is also a light paranormal with a bearwalking (shape shifting) Shawnee warrior.  Although The Bearwalker's Daughter is set among the clannish Scots-Irish in the Allegheny Mountains, the story has a strong Native American element and flavor.  As does my short historical romance story, The Lady and the Warrior.

All of these novels and the short story are available from Amazon, Some from Barnes &Noble and other online booksellers.  Your local bookstore can order them in as can your library if you ask them to.  I have made a number of donations to libraries.  I'm a big fan.

To read an excerpt from The Bearwalker's Daughter:

To read an excerpt from Through the Fire:

To read more about the story and inspiration behind Red Bird’s Song:

Each of these books, particularly Red Bird’s Song, were inspired by actual events that occurred to my early American Scots-Irish ancestors in the colonial frontier.   The high drama of the frontier, the power and passions of that time period are deeply stirring to my imagination.   I hope you will enjoy these books while gaining an appreciation for a mostly forgotten time and people.

When I look out the window at the distant ridges of the Alleghenies I remember the people who once roamed those ruggedly beautiful woodlands.  But not only the mountains, the Shenandoah Valley where I live and my family has lived for several hundred years was at once time the frontier.  Many Indian encounters and attacks took place in the valley.  Some to my ancestors and their friends and neighbors.  The Scots-Irish were highly interrelated.

Not to neglect my English ancestors who were also a part of these early dramatic times.  One of them, a Quaker, had visions and was so liked by the Indians they asked him to sit in on some of their treaties knowing he would be fair.  From my studies of history, and given that he lived in colonial Maryland/PA, I have concluded the tribes he was in communication with were the Shawnee, who make up the bulk of my research, and their close allies the Lene Lenape or the Delaware as they are otherwise known. A Shawnee historian with whom I once worked told me I should have made the Delaware the subject of my fascination as in his opinion they were nicer, but I have stuck to researching mostly the Shawnee.  Go team!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Early American Recipes

During my vast research for historicals set in early America I came across a wealth of plant lore and recipes.  An avid gardener, I love to grow herbs, heirloom flowers and vegetables. To see, smell, touch and taste the same plants known to my ancestors is as rich a connection to the past as I can have, and I’m fascinated with those who’ve gone before me—a common thread in my work whether writing straight historical or paranormal romance, the past looms large.
The following recipes are lifted from a slim volume I picked up at the nearby Museum of Frontier Culture located outside of historic Staunton Virginia in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley where my family has lived for several hundred years.  By ‘frontier’ they mean colonial.  At one time, the valley and mountains were the colonial frontier, the setting for my new release colonial Native American Romance Novel Red Bird’s Song.
The Good Land: Native American and Early Colonial Food by Patricia B. Mitchell
Vegetable Fritters:
1 c. flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, ½ tsp. salt
1 egg, ½ cup milk, 1 tsp. melted butter, or margarine or oil
1 cup chopped and well drained cooked vegetables (such as carrots, corn, green beans, lima beans, mushrooms, peas, or a combination of).
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat egg and add milk and butter.  Add to flour mixture and beat until smooth.  Add vegetables. Drop by tablespoons into shallow hot fat (or oil) in skillet.  Fry for four minutes or until brown on all sides. Drain on absorbent paper.
“Pumpkin was one of the plentiful Indian crops for which the English soon ‘developed a necessary liking.’ The food has been described as the ‘fruit which the Lord fed his people with til corn and cattle increased.’
This old verse illustrates the early dependence of settlers in the New World upon pumpkins: “For pottage, and puddings, and custards, and pies. Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies. We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon; If it were not for pumpkins, we should be undoon.”
They cooked the fruit into a ‘gruel’ flavored it with butter, vinegar, and ginger. I would open the pumpkin and remove the seeds, then cut the flesh into pieces before cooking, but that direction isn’t included as it’s assumed you know that. Peeling is easier after it’s cooked. 
An early recipe for ‘Pompkin Pie.’
 “One quart milk, 1 pint pompkin, 4 eggs, molasses, allspice, and ginger in a crust, bake for 1 hour.”
If that recipe isn’t clear enough, here’s an old Mennonite pumpkin pie recipe. It assumes you grew your own pumpkins, of course, but you can substitute canned. 
Pumpkin Pie:
1 1/2 cups cooked pumpkin, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 1/2 cups scalded milk, 3 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp. salt, 1 Tab. cornstarch, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1 tsp cloves
Pastry for one 9 inch pie crust.

Cook pumpkin and rub through a sieve. Add beaten egg yolks, sugar, salt, cornstarch, and mix well. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.
Pour mixture into unbaked crust. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 350 and continue baking for 30 minutes.
*I reduced the milk by 1/2 cup. *I use good sized eggs

Monday, August 9, 2010

Native American Quotes and Images


“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children.”
~ Ancient Indian Proverb
Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture your heart.
~ Old Indian saying
When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.
~ Cherokee Expression
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. We are a part of the earth and it is part of us. ~Chief Seattle
Lose your temper and you lose a friend; lie and you lose yourself.”
Only after the last tree has been cut down, only after the last river has been poisoned, only after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find money cannot be eaten.
~ Cree Prophecy
May the warm winds of heaven blow softly upon your house. May the Great Spirit bless all who enter there.  May your moccasins make happy tracks in many snows, and may the rainbow always touch your shoulder.
~ Cherokee Prayer Blessing
Wakan Tanka, Great Mystery, teach me how to trust my heart, my mind, my intuition, my inner knowing, the senses of my body, the blessings of my spirit. Teach me to trust these things so that I may enter my Sacred Space and love beyond my fear, and thus Walk in Balance with the passing of each glorious Sun.
~ Lakota Prayer
Honor the sacred. Honor the Earth, our Mother. Honor the Elders.
Honor all with whom we  share the Earth:-
Four-leggeds, two-leggeds, winged ones,
Swimmers, crawlers, plant and rock people.
Walk in balance and beauty.
~Native American Elder
O’ Great Spirit, help me always to speak the truth quietly, to listen with an open mind when others speak, and to remember the peace that may be found in silence.
~ Cherokee Prayer
We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.
~ Qwatsinas, Nuxalk Nation
“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” ~ Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator
…Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence. ~ Mourning Dove Salish

The Great Spirit is in all things, he is in the air we breathe. The Great Spirit is our Father, but the Earth is our Mother. She nourishes us, that which we put into the ground she returns to us…. ~Big Thunder (Bedagi) Wabanaki Algonquin

“One does not sell the land people walk on.” ~Crazy Horse, Sept. 23, 1875
“Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mohican, the Pokanoket, and many other once powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and the oppression of the White Man, as snow before a summer sun.
“Will we let ourselves be destroyed in our turn without a struggle, give up our homes, our country bequeathed to us by the Great Spirit, the graves of our dead and everything that is dear and sacred to us? I know you will cry with me, ‘Never! Never!’”
*Image of Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota
~The Great Chief Tecumseh~ Shawnee
“When it comes time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.”  ~Chief Aupumut, Mohican. 1725
“From Wakan-Tanka, the Great Mystery, comes all power. It is from Wakan-Tanka that the holy man has wisdom and the power to heal and make holy charms. Man knows that all healing plants are given by Wakan-Tanka; therefore they are holy. So too is the buffalo holy, because it is the gift of Wakan-Tanka.”
– Flat-Iron (Maza Blaska) Oglala Sioux Chief
“When the Earth is sick, the animals will begin to disappear, when that happens, TheWarriors of the Rainbow will come to save them.” ~ Chief Seattle
“I am a red man. If the Great Spirit had desired me to be a white man he would have made me so in the first place. He put in your heart certain wishes and plans, in my heart he put other and different desires. Each man is good in his sight. It is not necessary for Eagles to be Crows. We are poor…but we are free. No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die…we die defending our rights.” ~ Sitting Bull Hunkpapa Sioux
“I will follow the white man’s trail. I will make him my friend, but I will not bend my back to his burdens. I will be cunning as a coyote. I will ask him to help me understand his ways, then I will prepare the way for my children, and their children. The Great Spirit has shown me – a day will come when they will outrun the white man in his own shoes.” ~ Many Horses
If you talk to the animals they will talk with you
and you will know each other.  If you do not talk to them
you will not know them, and what you do not know
you will fear.  What one fears one destroys.
Chief Dan George
*All images are royalty free. I am interested in purchasing more Native American images. Contact me at: