Looking back and looking forward

The year is drawing to a close.  In spite of all the hype, the world as we knew it did not end on December 21st, as many of us claimed it would not.  The best explanation I ever heard for the Mayan calendar was that the guy carving it just ran out of rock.  Perhaps not totally accurate, but funny enough to make me smile about it repeatedly.
The end of the year is a time to take stock, to evaluate, and even to make goals for the coming year.  Looking back on this year, I’m a little bit amazed and even stunned with what I have accomplished and what I have learned this year.
This year saw me learning new skill sets: canning, learning to cook over an open fire (not as easy as the romance novels I write make it out to be), making bread completely from scratch (and I do mean scratch, as I even ground the wheat in a hand grinder), and those skill sets leads to the first of my goals for the new year.  I want to learn to cure a hide and make leather. 
While working on the edits for The Devil’s Own Desperado, I learned that there are times I need to walk away from the manuscript.  When it went “live” on Amazon, I discovered that a review can have me dancing around the house for days, and another could leave me scratching my head in utter confusion.  I also learned to appreciate the good reviews, and take the less than good ones as a learning experience.  It’s true, you cannot please all of the people all of the time. 
I’m still learning this “self-promotion” thing.  It’s time consuming but in the long run, I am certain it will pay off.  That’s my second goal for the year: becoming better at self-promotion and not being embarrassed by bragging about myself.
I promptly began to polish the second manuscript in the series of romances set in the town of Federal, Wyoming Territory and sent it to my editor at The Wild Rose Press.  I’ve learned to have patience, whether or not I want to have such a “virtue.”  Because the second went to my editor so close to the Christmas break, I know I won’t hear anything until after the New Year.  I must keep reminding myself that patience is a virtue…sigh…
I learned that no matter my intentions, NaNoWriMo is NOT a good thing to attempt while teaching a full course load (125 freshmen students).  Because I committed myself to be the best teacher I could be to those students and they trust me to be that good teacher, the manuscript took a definite back seat to my students—as it should have been.  But, once the semester was over, I jumped into that WIP with both feet.  When I’m working on a new manuscript, I immerse myself in the time period, the mores of the day, and even the speech patterns.  (Can I say it drives my DH mad when I do this?)  I rediscovered the joy of historical research, because even though I knew a lot about the American Civil War, it wasn’t detailed enough for the current WIP.  A lot of what I learned about the prisoner of war camps run by both sides was distressing.  Reading about the acts of heroism (on both sides of the Mason/Dixon line, I will add), the acts of self-sacrifice, the sense of honor and chivalry that defined that war, as well as the complete and utter destruction of a whole generation of the best and brightest that both sides had to offer was humbling and uplifting at the same time. 
Appealing to that romantic in me was the history of the famed 1st Kentucky Cavalry, part of the “Orphan Brigade” under General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee.   In a passage of self-discovery, I realized that no matter what I learn about the American Civil War, my heart will always be with the men who donned the grey.  Perhaps it’s the romantic in me who buys into that “Lost Cause” mythos of those men who swore allegiance to the Confederate States of America.  Or perhaps, even though more than a century and a half have passed since the end of the American Civil War, the issue of states’ rights still has not been settled.  Some things never change…
I spent part of the year showing a dog who is near and dear to my heart, Bronze GCh. (Grand Champion) Bandor’s The Wyching Hour.  I love to show Vander.  He makes dog shows fun, because for him it is fun.  He’s the type of dog who believes that life is a party being thrown just for him.  As much as my attitude moves down the lead to him, his attitude creeps up the lead to me.  That’s the way it should be.  We should complement one another. 
I was honored to show a very promising young champion collie—Ch. Cliffstone’s Dreams of Thunder—to an award of merit at the Collie Club of America, while his incredibly proud owner watched.  I don’t know who was more proud of Thunder, me because he can be a “princess” and decided on that day he was a show dog, or Nikki, the young lady that Thunder owns.  Another honor for me this year with the show dogs was to put a championship title on Genny (Moosebrook’s Any Dream Will Do) for her owner, Nancy.  And, I apologize here and now for not adding all of Genny’s performance titles to her name, and she has a very long string of them.  Genny is a very versatile champion. 
I’m looking forward to the new show season and want to wish all of my readers a very blessed and safe New Year.  May 2013 bring you all that your heart desires.

Christmas Traditions

So many of the traditions we enjoy and embrace during the Christmas season come to us from the Victorians: kissing beneath the mistletoe, Santa, exchanging gifts, caroling, and giving to charity.  The Nativity has been celebrated since the 4th century.  In the beginning, the Colonies were slow to embrace the idea of Christmas, as the celebration of a Father Christmas in his long fur trimmed robes was seen as a heathenish notion but by the Victorian Era, Father Christmas was widely embraced by the Americans.

The Victorian Christmas is a joyous occasion.  First and foremost, it is a religious holiday, but giving and family were important themes.  Most were handmade, so were started many month before.  Mufflers, embroidered handkerchiefs, bookmarks, pen wipers, and other useful gifts were lovingly stitched, glued, and colored for family members and friends through the fall and winter months.  Wrappings of colored paper, tissue, and cloth were chosen with ribbons to compliment.  The exchange of presents, of ancient origin, symbolized the good luck, prosperity, and happiness wished for friends.  The Victorians began planning their presents many months ahead.  Most cherished were handmade, needlework, or something useful.  People exchanged remembrances with family and friends.  Children made their gifts as well.  
The air is filled with the smells and sounds of the approaching holiday.  The scent of roasted chestnuts from street vendors wafts through the crisp air, the sharp scent of evergreens draped around some doors, wreaths give a festive look to doors and windows.  Not all, some cling to the superstition that says you must not put up greens until Christmas eve.  On street corners, street musicians are singing traditional melodies.  Carolers stroll along, stopping to sing for people and selling a sheet of music. 
Busy shoppers hurry along on foot or in carriages getting last minute gifts, a trip to the shop to match a bit of thread, the bakery to order some little cream horns . . . so much to do!
The Christmas tree has been a German tradition since as early as the 17th century, but many ancient civilizations held evergreens to be a symbol of life during the long winter months and decorated trees as a symbol of eternal life.  In 1841 Prince Albert, German husband of Queen Victoria, introduced the charming custom to the royal family.  In 1850 a tinted etching of a decorated tree at Windsor Castle was published and the Tannenbaum became a necessity for every fashionable Victorian home.  It was a tradition quickly embraced by Victorian England.  Live trees were set up for the Christmas season decorated with lighted candles, draped with tinsel, ribbon, paper chains, cookies and candies.  (I’m just shuddering with the thought of lit candles on a live tree.  I wonder how many fires started in just that manner.)
On Christmas Eve the last of the relatives arrive for the holidays.  Not only the immediate family, but aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, it was a holiday devoted to one of the most important aspects of Victorian times, the family.  In the afternoon, a long awaited event, the doors of the parlor open and the children finally get to see the glorious Christmas tree with its candles, tinsel, beautiful ornaments made of colorful scrap art, ribbons, baskets of candies hung from branches.  Ropes of popcorn and cranberries ring the tree.  Hung from branches are small wrapped gifts, and under the tree the larger ones.  Christmas Eve is the time for gift exchanges and everyone has a gift.  After the grand unwrapping, the children play with their toys, thoughtful handmade gifts are admired and the best gift of all is used, Papa’s gift to the family was sometimes a phonograph, a game, a sterioscope, or maybe one of the new magic lanterns with amazing pictures that enthralled the whole family.  Next came the program.  Everyone has a part.  Shy children mumble recitations and poems while older children and adults perform short plays and scenes from history.  Musical performances and group singing fills the house.  After, sleepy children are sent to bed as well as tired adults. 
Christmas day starts with a Christmas Mass or church service.  After a quick trip by some to the bakers to pick up the Christmas goose or other meat, a flurry of cooking takes place.  The Christmas dinner is resplendent with all manner of foods.  The meat being served depends on the area you live in.  Many rural houses have beef.  Chicken and goose is popular.  Turkey is popular in America, but not usually used for Christmas in England until in the late 19th century.  The Christmas pudding was mixed on Stir-up Sunday, the Sunday before Advent.  A Christmas pudding is made of beef, raisins, prunes and sugar all packed into a pudding cloth and dropped in the pot to cook, often with other food.  It is served, with great ceremony, with a coating of brandy set alite and a sprig of holly in the top.
After Christmas dinner, cleanup, and afternoon naps, the festivities continue with visits to friends.  Most shops are open.  It is unusual for any of the trades to take a day off.  Charity is an important part of the Christmas season: sharing with your fellow man.  The streets are filled people wassailing (going from house to house at Christmas time, singing carols and greeting people), the less fortunate going from door to door hoping for donations of food, drink, or money as they invite others to share a drink from their wooden bowls.  Families also walk door to door caroling to entertain their neighbors.
The custom of caroling is a purely English tradition which was quickly taken up by America.  In cities, the approaching holiday season was marked by strolling carolers, usually in groups of three, one caroler to play violin, one to sing, and one to sell sheet music.  Holiday shoppers would pause to purchase music, joining in the trio for a few stanzas, before hurrying homeward.  Carolers would stop at houses to sing, hoping to
be invited in for a warm drink.
Christmas decorations began appearing well before the holiday for many.  The favorite plants were the berried evergreens, mistletoe, holly and ivy.  During the Roman Solstice Ceremony known as “Saturnalia” holly was exchanged as it was believed the red berries would ward off lightning and evil spirits.  It had to be carried in the house by a male, as the berries are only on the male plant.  Ivy was twined in the holly as a symbol of the two halves of divinity.  Mistletoe was not allowed in churches because of its pagan origins.  In ancient times, Druid priests harvested it from sacred oaks on the fifth day after the new moon following the winter solstice.  Norse warriors who met under the mistletoe declared a truce for that day.  The Victorians used mistletoe suspended from the ceiling.  Those who met under it could claim a kiss.  The number of kisses allowed under each plant depended on the number of berries.  Each time a kiss was given, a berry was taken off.  No more berries, no more kisses!   
Although the Victorian idea of Christmas was not commercial, having more to do with food, and the exchange of handmade gifts, New York soon saw the commercial advantages of a holiday full of the exchange of gifts.  By the 1880s Macy’s department store’s windows were filled with wonderful dolls and toys from Germany, France, Austria, and Switzerland.  Another window boasted scenes with steam driven moveable parts.  Homemade cornucopias of paper filled with fruit, nuts, candy, and popcorn were hung from branches of trees in America and England.  Beautiful shaped cookies were hung for treats on Christmas day.  Often the gifts were also wrapped and hung from branches.
With the growing popularity of Christmas trees manufacturers began producing ornaments around 1870.  Also popular were molded wax figures of angels and children.  Many ornaments were made of cotton-wool wrapped around an armature of metal or wood and trimmed with embossed paper faces, buttons, gold paper wings and “diamond dust”, actually powdered glass.
The first Christmas card, designed by J.C. Horsley, was sent by Henry Cole, who decided to send his many acquaintances something different from his usual Christmas letter.  They sold for one shilling each, and only one thousand copies were lithographed.  It depicted the charities of clothing and feeding the poor, with the middle section depicting a well-to-do family toasting to Christmas and the year ahead.  It proved to be a very popular idea.
Santa is a mixture of many different figures from many different cultures.  The Dutch St. Nick, England’s Father Christmas, and the German Kris Kringle.  In ancient times Norse and German people told stories of The Yule Elf who brought gifts during Solstice to those who left out offerings of porridge.  When Clemment Moore’s poem “The Night Before Christmas” became enormously popular, the “Jolly old elf” was adopted as the ideal Santa.  Years later Thomas Nast illustrated him as a round-bellied whiskered figure in tight red leggings and coat.  Coca-Cola’s popular advertising changed the concept of Santa to a cheerful full bearded man with the now popular red suit, black boots and wide belt.
Our Christmas celebrations owe much to the Victorians.  What’s your favorite Christmas tradition?   

Smolder on a Slow Burn–not really a WIP anymore

I typed “The End” on my WIP that I started for NaNoWriMo.  When I first started writing it, I asked for some ideas for a title from my Facebook friends.  I got several that were very good and I couldn’t decide which one to use, so I combined a couple into one.  The WIP is now entitled Smolder on a Slow Burn—or that’s what it will be called as long as my editor is okay with that title.   It was rather liberating to type those words.  Now, I can walk away from it for a day or so and let it all set in and then go back and start fixing plot holes, shout at those two to stop the blasted head hopping, and tighten the writing.  I also have to be wary of my bias on the side of those who detested the interference of the federal government in their lives.  Some things never change…
CSA Cavalry Captain’s frock coat
I also realized while writing this WIP that I was using skills I hadn’t used since my undergrad days—namely historical research skills.  I used as many facts as possible while crafting this novel.  While researching uniforms for officers of both the Union and Confederate cavalries, I quickly realized the Union cavalry had absolutely nothing on their Confederate counterparts.  Those men in grey must have cut quite a dashing figure with the gold sleeve braid, bright yellow cuffs and collars, and in some cases, yellow piping along the outside front seams and on the tails of the overcoat, added to a yellow stripe running down the outside of the trousers.  And, then there were the Union uniforms…sigh…a little plain. 
The hero in Smolder, A.J. rode with the famed 1st Kentucky Cavalry.  The flag of these men was as impressive as their service record: a red cross with thirteen stars in it set on a background of royal blue. The men of the 1st Kentucky Cav were the first Kentuckians to respond to the call to arms for the Confederate States of America, mustered into service on October, 28th, 1861 and they were there until the last, serving as Jefferson Davis’s bodyguards when he was captured in Georgia on May 10th, 1865.  They were some of the very last troops to admit defeat and to finally lay down their arms.  “The First Kentucky did its duty… It was true to its colors under all circumstances.” (quoted in E. Porter Thompson’s History of the Orphan Brigade.) They were considered an Orphan Brigade as Kentucky never seceded so supplying those men became problematic.  Part of A.J.’s back story is at the Battle of Tullahoma (south of Franklin, TN and a few miles north of the Alabama State Line) he was captured by his long-time friend and neighbor and then sent to the prisoner of war camp in Elmira, NY. 
Major Henry Colt was, depending on the source, either the commander or second in command at the POW camp in Elmira, NY.  Henry Colt was the brother of the famed Samuel Colt, the man who invented the Colt revolver.  For the purpose of this story, Henry Colt is the second in command.  Every account I could find of life at Elmira and Henry Colt’s time there, the men respected him and felt that he was as fair as he could be under trying circumstances.  Elmira not only rivaled the worst of the Confederate prisoner of war camps (namely Andersonville, GA), it surpassed every camp–North or South in its death rate, over 24% of the Confederates who walked through the gates at Elmira died there.
By 1878, when this story takes place, the Republicans had effectively destroyed the vast majority of the terrorist group known as the Ku Klux Klan, using the same Union forces that had driven the South to her knees fifteen years before.  However, small pockets of those cowards continued to wreak havoc in parts of the Deep South.  Jack Dupree was butchered by men in the South who refused to accept defeat and refused to ever see a man of color as an equal.  For the most part the names of many of the children who were also killed by these cowards is not available; however the accounts of their deaths can be found in the historical records.  These children were killed simply because they dared to better themselves through education.
Allison’s back story is she was a teacher for these children.  While writing of her recount of some of the horrors visited on “her students,” the news broke about the agonizing tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  For several days, I could not force myself to go back to the keyboard.  I told my Muse to take a hike, that I was not writing a novel where children were murdered just because they wanted an education.  Or, where a young boy, a regimental drummer who was captured by Union forces, was also shot and killed when he ventured too close to the “dead line”—often an arbitrary line drawn in the dirt by the stockade walls of the prison camps.  I truly debated just deleting the whole file and hanging up the idea. 
After three days, my Muse whispered that the story had to be told.  So, I sat down at the keyboard again.  I’m glad I did.  I know there will have to be rewrites, but I have typed “The End.” 
On to the next…

What have we come to?

I am posting this blog with an incredibly heavy heart.  Today such an unspeakable evil reared its head and destroyed so many families.  My heart aches for the family and loved ones of the small children who were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary and also for the family and loved ones of those brave adults who truly gave their lives attempting to save children and in several cases, did save the lives of many.  My heart is also heavy with grief for the family of the young man who perpetrated this horrible evil.
I truly cannot—nor do I wish to—imagine the agony the families of these victims are suffering.  There are truly no words to express the sorrow, the grief, and the sympathy I feel for these families. 
I’m a western historical romance writer.  Guns and weapons are a part of the stock and trade in this genre.  I will state up front that I own several weapons, ranging in caliber from a .22 up to a 30-06.  That said this will not be a blog about whether or not we need more or less gun control laws.  The wounds are much too raw, much too painful to even begin a rational discussion on gun control laws.  Just let me state—for the record, the young man who slaughtered all those lives did NOT have possession of those firearms legally.  They were stolen from the legal owner—his own mother.
Gun ownership is a right.  Period.  It is guaranteed to us by our Constitution and it has nothing to do with hunting but everything to do with the citizenry protecting themselves from a tyrannical government.  Yet, all rights assume responsibility.  I’m reminded of the line from a movie that with great power comes great responsibility.
Owning a gun carries the highest responsibility.  Holding a firearm means that you now literally hold the power of life and death over another living, breathing being in the palm of your hand.  Keeping that weapon secured with a child-proof gun lock and hopefully in a locked gun safe is a part of that responsibility.  Teaching any child or children in the household how to fire those weapons and teaching them a healthy respect for those weapons must be a part of that responsibility. 
Both of my kids were fascinated with weapons when they were younger.  Realizing this, I set up a time to take them to the firing range and let both of them shoot the shot gun.  After my daughter picked herself up off the floor where she had been knocked by the recoil, she swore she was never going to touch another gun again.  Well, she’s now an expert shooter, but she never touched another gun until she was more prepared, both physically and mentally.  She also hunts and says she sheds a tear every time she takes down her prey, but she is also very proficient.  The respect for the power of that weapon was taught to her at a young age when it knocked her flat on her butt.
For his job, my son must qualify on a firing range every so often.  He is now teaching his son to not only respect but to be responsible with firearms. 
We are teaching our grand-daughter how to shoot and to both respect and be responsible with firearms.  She’s getting a smaller stock .22 rifle for Christmas.  When she is not on the firing range, her weapon will be secured with a gunlock and secured away in a gun safe.  It is our responsibility to assure that she will be safe around weapons and how to responsibly handle a weapon. 
Handled with respect and with the understanding that this is a weapon which can and will take the life of the target it is aimed at must be taught.  But before that, the respect for life must be taught.  That seems to be the hardest lesson to teach and learn.  We have learned the wrong lesson about life.  It is much too cheap now.  And that is the most gut-wrenching, agonizing lesson from today’s tragedy.  We have not taught our children that life is the most precious and priceless gift there is. 

self promotion

Christmas is just around the corner and then comes the official, hard-copy release of The Devil’s Own Desperado.  I’ve been blogging, have purchased an ad on one of the larger review sites to push the novel, and I still feel like I’m not doing enough to promote myself.  I can honestly say I’ve never liked to blow my own horn.  This is quite an adjustment, bragging myself and the novel up.  I was raised to do a good job, praise others, and recognition for my hard work would come to me on its own. 
Unfortunately, that isn’t how it works in the real world, and especially not in this era of publication.  Most publishers don’t have the time, the staff, or the budgets to do the all-out media blitz as they used to do.  That media blitzing is now up to the author.  We make or break our own novels. 
With that in mind, I’m announcing that I’ve been interviewed on two different blogs.  The interview appearing on Sarah Hoss’s blog is today and it’s at http://www.heart-of-romance.blogspot.com/.   Sarah was gracious enough to share her blog space with me for this interview.
The other blog I’ve been interviewed for is at MK McClintock’s space.  She is a host for several blog-hops for readers and writers.  Can I just say that I love the design of her blog space?  I’ll be at the following link on December 13th. http://mkmcclintock.blogspot.com/
Check out the blogs, leave a comment, shout “howdy” and share the links.  Please.

Civil War POW camps and romance novels????

For my current work in progress, I’ve been doing some research on prisoner of war camps during the American Civil War (or for those who prefer: either the War for Southern Independence or the War of Northern Aggression).  The hero spent time at Johnson’s Island, north of Sandusky, Ohio when he was taken prisoner by the Union forces.

War brings about many evils, the worst of which, in my opinion, is the cruelty that man perpetuates on his fellow man.  The American Civil War was no different.  At the beginning of the conflict, captured soldiers were often paroled and sent home, with a promise not to take up arms again.  It quickly became apparent that wasn’t working, so the issue of what to do with captured soldiers arose.  Prisoner of war camps began dotting up behind lines for both sides of the war.

Andersonville in Georgia was beyond a doubt one of the worst of these prisoner of war camps.  Starvation, forced labor, death by disease from deplorable living conditions and from blunt force trauma administered by the guards were the norms at Andersonville.  The camp commander, Henry Wirtz, was captured at the end of the war, and then tried and executed for war crimes in what was probably the first trial of its kind.  To be fair, most of the conditions in the camp were completely beyond Wirtz’s control as the South was heavily blockaded by the North at the time when the greatest concentration of deaths occurred in the camp and food stuffs and medicine were extremely difficult—if not impossible—to procure.  The conditions within his control, he was totally responsible for—the brutality of the guards to the prisoners, the forced labor, summary executions.  At one point, the conditions were so horrendous at Andersonville, that Wirtz allowed five men to leave and go North with a written request for assistance for the Northern prisoners.  That request was denied.  Those five men then returned to Andersonville to continue to wait out the war in the camp because they had promised their fellows in arms they would return.  A man’s word was worth something then.
Johnson’s Island (Union prison for CSA officers) Sandusky, Ohio
When word reached the North of the conditions in the Southern camps the Northern forces retaliated and began to treat their Southern brethren with the same cruelty and utter disregard for humanity that they perceived to be happening in the Southern POW camps.  Rations were cut for the Southern prisoners, medicines denied, and brutality became the norm.  In camps in the far north like Elmira many Southern soldiers froze to death in the winter. 
Elmira, New York housed the Northern equivalent of Andersonville.  The death rate in Elmira matched that of Andersonville and for all the same reasons.  Life in any POW camp during the American Civil War was a literal hell on earth.  Thousands of men were crowded into camps often less than five acres in total area.  Housing very often was whatever the men could find to make a shelter against the elements. The only water sources for these places were often small streams or ponds—and that water was used for drinking, cooking, bathing, and even as latrines.  It was no wonder that so many men died of dysentery.  Small pox often ran rampant in the camps, as did measles.  Both were often fatal. 
One of the very good things to come out of the atrocities committed by both sides in these hellholes was that the United States determined after the war that never again would a US prisoner of war camp be run as any of the camps were during the Civil War.  Long before the Geneva Convention and the rules governing how prisoners of war should be treated, the United States stepped up and made the decision that within a prisoner of war camp, we would never again stoop to such depravity.  

Trains, conflicts, and talking to myself again…

There are times, if anyone really listened to me talking to myself, I’m certain the people eavesdropping on my seemingly one-sided conversation would suggest at the minimum psychological help and at the other end of the spectrum a nice, safe, round rubber room where I couldn’t harm myself.  The thing is, as a writer, I talk to myself quite often.
I was talking to myself the other day.  The new romance I started for NaNaWriMo (which, by the way, I did not get 50K words done in the month—not even close) was going nowhere fast.  Oh, I had my two main characters hurtling down the tracks at the astronomical speed of about 50 miles an hour (for the 1870s, that was an astronomical speed) and safely ensconced in a fairly deserted passenger car, and that was the problem.  They were safely ensconced.  So I backed the story line up and asked my characters what I missed. 
Most authors can tell you that when an author asks a character (or characters) a direct question, the author may not like the answer.  A.J. has always been one of those characters who has honed sarcasm into a weapon.  Allison is a bit more blunt.  I could clearly see the both of them in the passenger car, A.J. leaning up against a door, Allison on the bench seat in the back of the car.  A.J. stated, drawl firmly in check, “I’d be inclined to hazard the guess that you missed getting us off the train back at the last station and with your keen sense of observation, you still managed to completely miss the rather unsavory sort who’s been following Allison.”
Really?  Where was he mentioned?  And why do you two have to get off the train? 
“Don’t tell me you forget to write my suspicions in the scene where you introduce me.  You made it a point to put me in those ridiculous heeled boots that made it nearly impossible to run after the train you made sure I missed.” 
Sorry, Allison, guilty as charged.  I did put you in the fashion of the day and I don’t recall you telling me anything about a man you thought was following you.  Just as much your fault as it is mine.
So rather than listen to A.J. demanding to know if he needed to go tell the engineer that the train had to be stopped and backed up about 20 pages or if I was going to do that, I went ahead and stopped said train and backed it up.  Added in the afore mentioned unsavory sort following Allison in the scene where I introduced her and now I have them off the train. 
Things are rolling along now.  At least where the plot is concerned.  Those two, on the other hand, have just hit a major snag.  Something about a wanted poster, aliases, and murder…