In my new book Laramie Moon, which will release in October, Alpha Werewolf Jim Winter owns a large ranch in Eastern Wyoming near Laramie. He raises cattle, bison, and a hybrid called beefalo. Jim has ranch hands (both Were and human) who live at the ranch and a ranch house cook whose mainstay meals are meatloaf, burgers, eggs, and chili. So I thought I’d cook up a batch of Winter Ranch Chili and share the recipe with you.
If you haven’t used it before, beefalo is generally lower in fat, more nutritious, higher in protein and more flavorful than commercial beef. Much of it is naturally grown and grass fed. If beefalo is not available, you can use ½ beef and ½ grassfed bison.
Winter Ranch Beefalo Chili
Use 2 lbs. of coarsely ground or chopped beefalo, or 1 lb. ground beef (chili grind) and 1 lb.
grassfed bison, ground or chopped
Brown the meat in 2 T vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or large pan over medium heat until
it is no longer pink. Break up clumps with a wooden spoon.
Meanwhile chop one medium-large onion, 1 red or green sweet pepper, and 2-3 cloves of garlic.
When the meat is fully browned, add about 2 C of chopped onion. (You’ll want to reserve some to serve on top of the finished chili.) Also add the chopped pepper (about 1 ½ C) and the chopped garlic. Cook it with the meat until the veggies are soft and the onion is translucent. If it looks like you have a lot of grease in the pan, you can drain off some of the grease at this point.
Next add two 14.5 oz cans of petite diced tomatoes with the liquid. I like to add 1 can of plain tomatoes and 1 can with diced green chilis. I like my chili chunky, but if you like it smoother, you could add tomato sauce instead.
Stir in the tomatoes and add spices. I use about 2 T chili powder, 1 ½ - 2 T ground cumin, 1 T oregano (I used Mexican oregano and crumbled it in), 1 T paprika, 1 T salt, and ¼ t cayenne. I like my chili flavorful and a little spicy but not blow-the-roof-off-your-mouth hot. I particularly like the cumin flavor. That’s what says chili to me.
You’ll want to add more liquid as this is going to be simmering for a long time. You can add about 2 C of water, beer, tomato juice or a combination. You could even sneak in a little tequila if you like. I like the water/beer combo myself as I get to drink the leftover beer while I wait for the chili to cook down.
Cover the pot and turn it down to simmer. You could also put the whole thing in a crock pot on low and leave for the day. I like to simmer it for at least 2-4 hours, stirring and adding liquid if it gets too thick.
I also add beans for about the last hour. I use pre-cooked, drained pinto beans or drained and rinsed canned pinto or red kidney beans (about 2 cans). Chili purists say no beans, but I was raised on chili with beans and that’s how I like it.
Theoretically you cook it and let it cool down, refrigerate it overnight to let it season, and serve it the next day, but my family never lets me put it off for another day. If they smell it cooking, they want to eat it.
When it’s ready, which is pretty much anytime you’re ready to serve it, adjust the seasonings. Use more cayenne to add heat. If it’s too thin, you can thicken it by making a slurry of masa flour or plain flour with a little water and adding it for the last few minutes.
Serve your chili with chopped onion and grated cheddar cheese or a dollop of sour cream, a few thin jalapeno slices and a sprinkling of roughly chopped cilantro, or just eat it plain.
Leave a comment and let me know what you think. If you enjoy it, check back into the blog over the next weeks for more Winter Ranch recipes.
TORN, the second installment in bestseller Jennifer Armentrout's WICKED series, is now out. The series follows Ivy Morgan, a fae hunter in New Orleans. she, and her fellow hunter/boyfriend Ren. I devoured the first book WICKED, and I just got TORN, so I should be off reading!
Lori Lyn loves to help other writers in any way she can. She gives workshops on the craft of writing, has been a founder and presiding member of several non-profit writing organization chapters, and has organized book festivals and conferences. Her debut novel, The Archery Contest, is getting great reviews, and she's just signed a contract for her next work. Check out Lori Lyn's blog as she tells us about her writing process.
Thank you so much, Clare, for the kind invitation to chat here. I really love talking with other writers and sharing thoughts.
1) What are you working on?
I'm currently working the third book for my historical romances. Book one, THE ARCHERY CONTEST, is out now and I just signed a contract for the second book, THE COUNTRY BUTLER, with my publisher. So I really need to get on revising! I'm also working hard at promotion since my first book just came out a couple weeks ago. It's the un-fun part of being an author. Another project is learning how to format as I want to indie publish my thriller series.
Writers are always working on another book but once you get close to or are published, you really have to work on the business side of it. These days, promotion and marketing are a significant part of being an author - and if you do it well, a successful author. And thankfully I had several books done when I signed the first one with my publisher. It's given me lots more time to work on the promo side without also frantically trying to write an entire new book.
2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?
While my books are Regency-set historical romances, they hardly follow the rules of the traditional Regency. My heroines, like Willy in THE ARCHERY CONTEST, do not use fans to convey meaning - they tend to just say it directly. Willy even lures the hero into a challenge of archery skills. I really love humor and smart, strong heroines. My books are definitely character driven stories. I think my work mostly differs in that I have a unique voice, like most writers. I see characters and situations in my own light.
3) Why do you write what you do?
I write romance because I believe in the Happily-Ever-Afters. I come to care for my characters and want to see them happy and I so enjoy telling their stories. Romance is really all about what any book is about - relationships, people triumphing over adversity of some kind. It's an internal and external struggle but with romances, you know the ending will be and H-E-A or at least a happily-for-now end.
I guess I write, over all, because I simply have to. I have written stories, poems, lyrics since I was in elementary school! When the characters start forming in your mind, you kind of have to let them out on the page. It just doesn't feel like a choice. Even if everyone told me I would never be published, I would still have to write, if only just for myself. It's my form of art, my form of expression and, at times, my form of therapy!
4)How does your writing process work?
First off, I'm a pantser, which means I write by the seat of my pants. Plotting is not my forte! First, a situation or incident or occurrence comes to mind. I happen upon a news story or read an article and something mentioned in there intrigues me, starts tickling my imagination. Then I hear some bit of dialogue in my head or an opening scene fills my mind's eye. i just start wondering about it from there. But until I have the protagonists firmly set in mind, I can't write the story. I have to really "know" my two main characters (and my antagonist, if there is one) before I can start. It's their story, after all. I have to have a clear understand of who they are and how they would react to any given situation. I have to know what their childhood was like, what are their fears, their hopes, etc. I also need the appropriate music. I once tried to write a historical while listening to Alt Rock and it was not pretty. Too much headbanging at the ball. Then I just start writing, sometimes with hours of staring at the screen between typing! The midpoint of the book is always a bit of a struggle and sometimes that can stump me for a few days or even a week or more. But I push through (sometimes writing just that) and continue. Once "the end" is written, then comes all the revision work.
This is my entry in a tour blog of diverse writers answering 4 questions about their writing processes. First off, if you arrived here following Ellen Vance, you may notice this is Clare McKay's website and blog. I write under the name Clare McKay. She's my alter-ego.
I was invited to join the blog tour by my good friend, author and activist Michael Barrett Miller. Michael is a teacher and the co-founder and director of Let Kids Be Kids, an advocacy organization dedicated to giving a voice to those who need it most. He's traveled widely, observing and working with people often living under extremely difficult conditions, and his books come directly from his travels, adventures, and experiences helping others. You can find out more about Michael, his books, and his work at http://lifeintheshadowsblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/a-blog-tour/ and http://wealldeservebetter.blogspot.com/p/link-to.html.
Thank you, Michael, for giving me this opportunity to tell my writing story.
1. What am I currently working on?
I'm currently working on a contemporary romantic suspense novel. It's a bit of a departure for me as my books generally have paranormal elements, but the idea for this book came to me almost complete and I had to run with it.
The working title is Austin Bound, and it's the story of a straight up "protect and serve" type of cop who stops an assault on a young woman and then sees his life changing as his feelings for her deepen and he learns she's not exactly who he thought. There's some soul-searching, some suspense, and a bit of kink.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
That's a hard question. Every book is unique, and the romance genre is pretty broad. It's no longer the days of the old Harlequin romances with the fainting princesses waiting to be saved by the handsome heroes. I still love a handsome hero, but today most heroines are pretty self-confident and capable. The romance part comes in each of the partners learning about themselves and the other and sharing their strengths to work together to overcome the obstacles in their path.
I think one of the differences in my books is that they are very location oriented. It's the character of the place that calls to me and suggests the characters and the plot. Blue Mountain Magick is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina which are infused with a tradition of mystery and magick. Laramie Moon, Wind River Moon, and Missoula Moon, a paranormal series, came from visits out West where I often saw anti-wolf bumper stickers on trucks. I was intrigued with the question "What would you do if you were a wolf – a werewolf – in ranching country?" Finally, Austin Bound comes out of the flavor of Austin, a mixture of contemporary hipness and true Texas. You can read more about my passion for setting in my previous blog.
3. Why do I write what I do?
I've always written stories and poetry, and for years I tried to write literary fiction. I thought that was what I was supposed to write. I think I had some good ideas, but I never finished the books. I would lose interest in the characters, or the plot would become convoluted and unwieldy.
About 10 years ago my daughter, a voracious reader, began reading fantasy and paranormal romances, and I picked up some of her books and became enthralled with the characters and their stories. As a young adult, I had read romantic adventures – the Angelique novels by Anne and Serge Golon and the wonderful books of Daphne Du Maurier and Rosemary Sutcliff – and I'd moved on to sci-fi and fantasy. When I re-engaged with my romantic roots, something just clicked. I sat down and wrote my first novel, a 400 page romantic suspense laced with magical realism, in just 3 months. I realized that the old saying "Write what you love," is true.
4. How does your writing process work?
I usually have a pretty good idea of where I'm going before I begin writing, and then I'll dive right into it, but before I get too far into the story, I'll plot pretty extensively. I chart out the scenes, whose point of view I'm in for each scene, and how that scene forwards the plot. I use OneNote to keep character sketches, plotting charts, and research notes.
I prefer to write in long stretches, usually at night. I've found that it takes me a long time to warm up and get back into the scene where I left off, so if I can stay with the story for a good stretch, I get more accomplished. I've been known to write for 12 hours when I'm on a roll, but usually I write for 3-6 hours at a session.
I edit and revise as I go, so the books are usually in pretty good shape by the time I finish, but then I run them through my critique partner (invaluable) and some beta readers and make further revisions.
I hope you'll check out the book blurbs here on my website. If you have any questions or comments, I hope you'll post them or contact me on my contact page. I can also be found at https://www.facebook.com/ClareMcKayAuthor and @Clare_McKay. I will get back to you.
I also invite you to check out the blogs of my friend and fellow authors who will jump on this tour with their own blogs next week:
Shannon Kennedy is one of the busiest authors I know. She's published at least 8 novels and 1 novella with 3 different publishers in just the past 4 years while also owning/managing a horse farm and running riding camps for kids and teens. Whew! She writes 2 wonderful young adult series that focus on the strength of teens dealing with neglectful parents, foster care, relationship and substance abuse, and just growing up. Under the pen name Josie Malone, she also writes an adult paranormal series that ranges between the Old West and the Pacific Northwest today. You can read her blog post at http://www.josiemalone.com/writingtherangeblog.php
Lori Lyn loves to help other writers in any way she can. She gives workshops on the craft of writing, has been a founder and presiding member of several non-profit writing organization chapters, and has organized book festivals and conferences. Her debut novel, The Archery Contest, has just been released and is getting great reviews. Check out Lori Lyn's blog post at http://www.lorilyn.net/ .
A student asked me where I get ideas for stories. I know some writers start with characters or situations, or even an overheard snippet of a conversation, but I usually start with the setting. Certain places call out for a story.
Blue Mountain Magick is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The Appalachians exude age and mystery. I was thinking historical and I particularly wanted to focus on the Scots-Irish immigrants who settled back in the hills after the Jacobite Rebellion. As I was researching, I uncovered a long history of witchcraft dating back to the Native Americans prior to European settlement. The witchcraft was based in earth energies. As the Scots moved into the area, the practitioners of this magick were generally women doing root work or herbalism known as "granny magic." The history and remoteness of the settlements in the mountains, the magick, and the witches - that was my starting point. I made the story contemporary, but it's all rooted in the secrets of the past.
The Western Alphas series that I'm currently working on also came from settings. It started in Laramie, Wyoming, another location steeped in history. My son went to school in Laramie, and as we road-tripped through Wyoming and Montana, I was struck by the character of the land, so different from the green softness of Washington or the mystical secrets of the Appalachians. It was beautiful but harsh and unforgiving. I wanted to write a story that would capture the struggle of individuals in this powerful environment. Then I saw a bumper sticker on a truck. It read "Shoot, Shovel, and Shut up". It referred to the antagonism between ranchers and the federally protected wolves, especially in the areas near Yellowstone. I'd been thinking about doing a contemporary take on werewolves, and this was perfect. My first thought was What would you do if you were a werewolf in ranching country? My answer was Jim Winters, the hero of Laramie Moon and the Alpha of his pack. He survives and protects his pack hiding in plain sight by running the biggest, most successful ranch in all of Eastern Wyoming. The heroes and Alphas of the rest of the series each face their own dilemmas as they deal with their particular environments. While Laramie is straight cowboy, Missoula presents more of an urban/suburban scenario, and Wind River portrays a brand new pack moving into a very small, tight-knit community. The fourth book is set in Reno and deals with money and politics and corruption.
My current work in progress is set in Austin, my hometown. A recent visit brought up all kinds of sensory memories. While the Austin I grew up in has mostly been eaten up by new growth, South Austin has preserved the smaller, older community feeling that resonated with me. I came up with the characters and plot while I was sitting in a Church's Fried Chicken on South 1st watching a pair of cops.
I don't know what place will speak to me next, but I'm open to it when it comes.
I participated in NaNoWriMo, or the National Novel Writing Month challenge, this past November. This is the first time I'd ever entered the challenge, which is to write a novel, or 50,000 words, in 30 days. Lots of my friends had participated before, but I'd always held back. I didn't think I could accomplish that kind of challenge because of my particular writing style. I'd always written sporadically and sometimes manically, writing for 12-18 hours at a stretch for a couple of days and then not writing for days. I wrote Blue Mountain Magick, my longest book at 108,000 words, in 3 months, writing obsessively over long 4 day weekends.
I always wrote in spurts of creativity. I thought that was how it was done. You sat back and waited for the muse to show up, then you rode her until she was worn out. Then you waited again (preferably drinking whiskey and chain-smoking). That was my concept of how creative writing was done - how "real" writers did it.
When I began going to writing conferences and workshops and meeting other authors, I marveled at their discipline. I met successful writers who wrote every day and many aspiring or emerging writers who held day jobs and wrote on their lunch breaks or woke up to write from 4-6am before going to work. I met editors who want their authors to produce, and produce regularly. But I persisted in my idea that this wasn't for me.
I decided to give NaNo a try because I'd been stalled in my writing and I thought maybe I could get a jump start if I was prodded a bit. I signed up and joined a support group and found I would have to report my word counts - publically - every day. Accountability!
Our first step was to set personal goals. My 2 goals were to write 60,000 words, instead of the target 50,000, and to write something every day. I held myself to those goals, writing many nights after work when I would not have written otherwise just to get a word count to turn in before midnight.
I fell short of my 60,000 word goal, although I did complete enough to "win" the challenge, ending up with 53,000 words. But I accomplished the more important goal of writing every single day. The muse wasn't always there, and the writing wasn't always great, but I wrote. I produced. And I learned that my writing style is whatever I make work for me.
Everybody loves a giveaway. Today I'm offering a free copy of my critique partner's upcoming YA release, Throw Away Teen. Shannon Kennedy, also known as Josie Malone for her adult historical and contemporary western novels, writes young adult realistic and paranormal novels. Her current YA project, the Stewart Falls Cheerleader series, revolves around the lives of a group of young people in a small town in the Cascade mountain foothills of Washington state.
Fifteen-year-old B.J. Larson grew up in foster care, bouncing from home to home since she was a toddler. Now B.J. moves from the youth group home, where her status lies in a lengthy arrest record, to a new placement with an older couple, Liz and Ted Driscoll. When she arrives at their home in the
small town of Stewart Falls, B.J. meets the vice-president of their dog 4-H club, Ringo Taylor. She knows better than to reveal her attraction to him. She’s just passing through and no matter how good this new life seems, she will soon
be on her way back to the group home in Seattle. To find out more about Shannon's writing and the Stewart Falls Cheerleader series, visit Shannon's website at http://www.shannonkennedybooks.com/welcome.html.
The first book in Shannon's Stewart Falls Cheerleader series,
Throw Away Teen, is due out in December, but you can win one here. Just leave a comment and your contact information and Shannon and I will get back to you.
Thanks, we're looking forward to hearing from you.
25 Monday Jun 2012 Posted by Cera duBois in Visit with My Friends
Welcome Clare McKay as she talks writing and her book Laramie Moon.
Open with a little about yourself. When did you start writing, how long and what do you write?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I grew up in a house full of readers, and it wasn’t unusual to get up in the middle of the night to get a glass of milk and find several people still up, sitting around the table and talking about the books they were reading. We went to the library every week, and when I’d read through the children’s section of the library, my mother let me graduate to the fiction stacks. Her favorites were historical novels and romances, so it was natural for me to pick them up.
When I was about 12, I started a correspondence with the British author Rosemary Sutcliff. She wrote YA and adult historicals about King Arthur and the Romans in Britain, and she was kind enough to answer all my questions and encourage me to pursue writing. In college I majored in history and literature and became a fiction snob, so after college, I tried to write literary fiction. I was determined to write the next “great American novel.” I worked on my masterpiece off and on for years, but I never got around to finishing it. I didn’t particularly like my characters, and my heart wasn’t in it.
My daughter actually re-introduced me to romance. She loves paranormal romance and fantasy, and her books were always lying around. I got hooked on Anita Blake and the Black Dagger Brotherhood and then just devoured romances – paranormal, historical, suspense. It took me a long time to figure it out, but it finally dawned on me to write what I loved. After that, writing came easy.
I write urban fantasy and paranormal romances where the paranormal elements operate alongside the real world, mostly hidden but crossing over and involving characters from both worlds. Right now I’m writing a contemporary Western Alphas series – cowboys and werewolves, what’s not to love!
I was something of a romance snob for years too. I swore up and down I’d never write it…Well, best laid plans and all that…LOL Every book I ever came up with has always been a romance. And I love the Black Dagger Brotherhood. I hadn’t read it until this spring when it was suggested I read it to possibly attract that audience during my blog tour…Great stuff!
What can you tell us about Blue Mountain Magick that isn’t in the blurb or excerpt? Was it an easy write? How long did it take you to write it?
Blue Mountain Magick was my first book, and it literally flowed out of me. The story came to me almost complete, and I plotted it in one sitting. It’s my longest book at 108,000 words, but I finished it in three months.
Don’t you love when a story flows like that? I’ve had a few, but lately I’ve been struggling.
Are you a pantser or plotter? What can you tell us a little about your writing process?
I am definitely a plotter. I have to know where I’m going although I may change directions along the way. I always begin with a character, and my character is usually intrinsically linked to a setting. I rough plot the whole book and write up character lists. I will also do some preliminary research, especially on the settings or occupations/background of the characters.
Jim Winter, my hero in Laramie Moon, is ex-military, and I needed him to fly a helicopter, so with a little research, I discovered the Night Stalkers, the US Army’s Special Operations Aviation Regiment. They were a perfect fit. In the book, it’s just a bit of backstory that provides some motivation, but it was essential for me to know his whole history to write him convincingly.
Once I begin drafting, I usually write straight through to the end, revising a little as I go along. My biggest help has been finding a compatible critique partner. If I could give any advice to beginning writers it would be to search out a critique partner or group and not give up if it doesn’t work out. I tried several times before I found my perfect fit.
Now as a panster, I don’t do research unless and until I need to while I’m writing…Then I fix what I screwed up until I did the research….LOL
If you could be any fictional character—including your own, who would you choose and why?
I have lots of favorite characters, from David Copperfield to Antigone, but I wouldn’t particularly want to be most of them. If I could be a fictional character, I think I’d want to be Claire Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books. I can think of worse things than traveling through time and being married to Jamie.
All great characters!
What is your favorite TV show or movie?
Currently, my favorite TV show is probably The Walking Dead, although zombies are not sexy! I’m also a big fan of True Blood, Supernatural, Lost Girl, Criminal Minds, and Bones. I love my DVR. When I have time, I can sit down and have a marathon of all the shows I’ve missed.
I like Lost Girl… I only allow myself two TV shows a season…
Okay, since I write both vamps and cowboys, I want to know, which is sexier: Vampires or Cowboys?
Vampires are sexy with their ageless beauty and experience. I fell in love with Lestat. But I’m a Texas gal at heart, and I’d have to go with cowboys. I grew up thinking nothing was sexier than broad shoulders in a clean white shirt, a tight butt in dress jeans, and long legs ending in boots, and I still feel that way.
Of course, you could write a vampire cowboy…. I did. Austin in A Hunter’s Blade is one (releasing this winter).
Alpha werewolf Jim Winter has it all – a pack that respects him, a successful ranch, and his choice of willing females – but he only woman he wants is the one he can’t have. A guilty secret and a promise keep him from claiming Sissy as his mate.
Sissy Hunt has always loved Jim, but she’s tired of being the only 25 year old virgin werewolf in Wyoming. Frustrated and ready to get on with her life, she gladly accepts an invitation to join a neighboring pack, but she runs from heartbreak straight into the arms of danger.
Jim and Sissy will have to face the specters of their past if they want to survive and have a future together.
I'm busy. I have things going on in my life. I don't have time to write. My
inspiration is dried up, crushed by my day to day
I have every excuse in the book; some of them are completely valid, some are just lame.
But it seems like every time I think I can't write, inspiration just throws itself in my way. It might be an overheard conversation or a picture in a magazine. I was running dry on my second book when I heard a song on the radio. It was my character's song. It was his voice singing out, and he was telling me how he didn't have any choice but to love the woman he was so dead set on resisting. I had to finish telling his story.
This week it was a couple of random tv programs. They were both on channels I don't watch. One was on the Military Channel, a network I don't think I've ever seen before. Again, there was the character for the next book I was planning. I watched things he'd gone through, felt his fears, and was amazed by his strength. I immediately started making notes and sketching out a character profile. Another program gave me the perfect settingfor my WIP. Everything was exactly the way I wanted to describe it. I couldn't wait to write it down.
There are all kinds of little things that just seem to force themselves on my attention and say "write about me now." Then occasionally something big just comes out of nowhere and clobbers me over the head. When I least expected it, I was awarded a sabbatical that I'd given up hope of ever getting. A whole quarter off to travel to the places I'm writing about and experience them with all my senses. A quarter off to refresh and renew myself. A quarter to write and write and write.
Sometimes the universe is subtle and whispers to you, but at other times it screams until you listen.
I'm listening now.
I write fantasy and paranormal romance. I love having the ability to create new worlds and new histories. My first book LARAMIE MOON will be coming out soon, so stay tuned.