Update: With all of your very helpful feedback, and some of my own research, I have made some great progress in building and maintaining a hot fire. Firstly, I have now started using "nut" sized coal as is recommended in the manual as the preferred size. As I stated earlier in the thread, I first purchased "stove" sized coal and it was much more difficult to keep fired. The "nut" coal is much easier to get red hot and keep hot. Secondly, I began using my stove poker tool (link to a similar poker below) to clear the ash buildup by running it under the coal bed and over the wet grate. Although this takes a lot of effort and is very dusty, it is helping the air flow significantly. I am loving the lack of creosote which was a huge problem when I was burning wood that wasn't very dry. http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/3 ... SY300_.jpg
Thanks to all that helped me along during this learning process!!!