Mar 23 2017

Reason #30: Why writing takes so long

#30 Cat won’t stay filed

People ask all the time, how long does it take to write a book. I always reply it depends on a great deal of things like how much research needs to be done, how active the muse, what’s going on with the family and the cats…

Cats? What do cats have to do with writing? Pretty much everything. Writers and cats just go together. It would be so much easier if it were dogs. Seriously, I have a dog and she nearly never slows down the writing. 

But, the crux of the matter is that dogs have owners, cats have staff.

For example. I try to keep things neat and organized. But the resident cats seem to have other things in mind.

I try to keep them all neatly filed, but they just won’t stay filed.

Soooo frustrating! Do you have any good tips on keeping your cats properly filed?

Mar 23 2017

Reason #30: Why writing takes so long

#30 Cat won’t stay filed

People ask all the time, how long does it take to write a book. I always reply it depends on a great deal of things like how much research needs to be done, how active the muse, what’s going on with the family and the cats…

Cats? What do cats have to do with writing? Pretty much everything. Writers and cats just go together. It would be so much easier if it were dogs. Seriously, I have a dog and she nearly never slows down the writing. 

But, the crux of the matter is that dogs have owners, cats have staff.

For example. I try to keep things neat and organized. But the resident cats seem to have other things in mind.

I try to keep them all neatly filed, but they just won’t stay filed.

Soooo frustrating! Do you have any good tips on keeping your cats properly filed?



Mar 21 2017

Dangerous, even deadly: Teething in Jane Austen’s World

portrait of baby with teething coral Anyone who has dealt with young children knows the misery teething can bring, not just to the baby, but the entire household. Modern parents expect teething to begin at about five months, ushering in fussiness, sleep disruption and drooling, but nothing more difficult or dangerous than that.

Twenty four hundred years ago, though, Hippocrates warned parents of the fever, diarrhea and convulsions teething could produce. 18th century Scottish physician John Arbuthnot estimated one tenth of children died while teething. (Mims, 2005) Others estimated up to one third of infant mortality was due to teething. (Day, 2013)

What changed?

Dreaded Dentition

!8th century French physician Jean Baumes (1783) wrote “All experience teaches that dentition is to be dreaded.”

Why the dread? In layman’s terms, the irritation of the gums and possibility that teeth might fail to break through could upset a child’s fragile nervous system. Obviously, right? Such disruption could lead to convulsions or even death. Buchan (1838) suggested “These symptoms are in a great measure owing to the great delicacy and exquisite sensibility of the nervous system at this time of life, which is too often increased by an effeminate education. Hence it comes to pass, that children who are delicately brought up, always suffer most in teething, and often fall by convulsive disorders.”

In other words, it was probably mom’s fault. Of course.

Still some children cut teeth without significant issues. This Baumes attributed to healthy parents and good quality care of the child. A woman who “restrained her passions during pregnancy” and “retained a tranquil mind” helped insure her child would have successful teething. But errors of diet and “abuses of regimen” could lead to feebleness of constitution, an imbalance of fluids, and “organic disorders of bodily systems.”

According to period physicians, dentition contributed to two major groups of illnesses: digestive and nervous. Digestive ills included diarrhea (which killed many infants no matter what caused it) constipation, vomiting (also potentially deadly), cough, colic and hiccoughs. Even more dreaded were the nervous complications: restlessness and fitful sleep which could lead to exhaustion, derangement and convulsions. Cases of “dental paralysis”, especially upon the eruption of the canine teeth, were even reported. All of these could lead to death.

A Charm Against Teething Evils

Regency medicine was more medieval than modern, so superstition and ancient beliefs still held powerful influence over treatments. Medicinal amulets to ward off evil were every bit as reliable and quite possibly as effective as the doctors of the era. (And probably a good deal less dangerous … just saying.) Many relied upon the protective power of coral.

portrait of infant with teething coralBelief in coral was steeped in centuries old traditions. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed coral would ward off a variety of infantile illnesses. Plato wrote of the value of wearing coral amulets and hanging them in cradles and nurseries. Ancient Egyptians believe coral would ease teething pain. By the 16th century, coral beads became a common christening gift among the wealthy classes.

(Total aside here, it is interesting to note that coral beads were a very fashionable accessory for young ladies of the Regency era. It does make one wonder about them as possibly infantilizing young women as well… but back to teething now…)

Coral teething sticks became popular as well. And then as now, whatever is popular tends to become fashion statements and, well just plain overdone.

Artisans designed elaborate teething rattles for their wealthiest of patrons. Usually fashioned out of silver and gold (both considered to have supernatural powers of course) these odd looking accessories would have a whistle on one end and the coral sticks on the other. Bells, silver ones in particular, would be hung around the base of the whistle, their pure tones repulsing evil spirits and drawing in good ones—and distracting the baby as well. A ribbon allowed them to be suspended from the baby’s neck or tied at the waist. (Yet another great idea, right?)

Less ornate teething ‘corals’ were also available, but not nearly the status symbols the elaborate ones were. Still though, they provided the same benefits. Corals provided a tough, but safe substance for babies to bite down on and gave parents the peace of mind they were doing something to protect their baby through a difficult and dangerous time.










Teething Treatments

When teething corals did not provide sufficient relief, physicians and superstitions had numerous treatments to offer. (And if you ask me, I think, in this case I’d go with the superstitions…)

Since babies drool during teething, saliva was though to soften the gums. If it was insufficient to the task, a number of preparations were available to help nature along. Parents were told to rub chicken grease or fresh hog’s lard lightly and frequently over infant’s gums. A somewhat less palatable alternative was to use hare’s brains for the same purpose. Yum.

When a family could not afford coral, ivory, wolves teeth or bone might be given to a child to bite on. If those were not available, a child might be given a dry bread crust, a lump of sugar wrapped in cloth, licorice sticks dipped in honey, carrot sticks or wax candles.

I just heard my dentist friends gnashing their teeth.

Baumes (1783) discouraged the uses of gum rubs as vulgar. Furthermore, he thought giving children hard substances to bite as they would harden and callous the gums, making teething harder rather than easier. I see you rolling your eyes, but wait, it gets better.

Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images
 Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 

Instead he recommended standard era treatments including enemas, purgatives, emetics, bleeding, blistering, plasters, cauterization and leeching. Buchan (1838) gives us a sound scientific explanation why: “Difficult teething requires nearly the same treatment as an inflammatory disease. If the body be bound, it must be opened either by emollient clysters or gentle purgatives; as manna, magnesia alba, rhubarb, senna, or the like. The food should be light, and in small quantity; the drink plentiful, but weak and diluting, as infusions of balm, or of the lime-tree flowers; to which about a third or fourth part of milk may be added. If the fever be high, bleeding will be necessary; but this in very young children ought always to be sparingly performed….Purging, vomiting, or sweating, agree much better with them, and are generally more beneficial.”

Of course, this makes perfect sense. But wait, there’s more.

Under the most severe of circumstances, era surgeons might go so far as lancing an infant’s gums. Baumes (1783) warned though that a simple incision was not always enough. The gums needed to be lanced down to the teeth and skin flaps excised to fully liberate the teeth. In the most extreme cases, the tooth socket might be broken or tooth extracted.

Would you believe that it was only at the turn of the 20th century that medical science disavowed the use of lancing to treat teething?

A few medicinal preparations were available to soothe babies’ pain and help them sleep. The most basic was to give them a cloth soaked in brandy to chew or suck on. (Then again, after all this stress and worry, mom might be the one more in need of that.)

On a more commercial level, a number of preparations became available, like Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup. Most of the concoctions were solutions of alcohol and morphine, possibly with various herbal components. A few boasted calomel, a mercury-based compound, as well.

So let’s review, leeches, bleeding, lancing, alcohol, opiates and mercury versus lard and hare’s brains. There’s a reason I suggested superstition was a safer alternative for teething babies.

No wonder teething was such a cause of infant mortality!


Baumes, Jean Baptiste Timothée. A treatise on first dentition and the frequently serious disorders which depend upon it. Translated by Thomas Emerson Bond. New York: Raetas & Kelley, 1841. (French version written by Jean Baptiste Timothee Baumes published in 1783)

Buchan, William. 1838. Domestic Medicine: Or, A Treatise on the Prevention and Cure of Diseases by Regimen and Simple Medicines: with Observations on Sea-bathing, and the Use of the Mineral Waters. To which is Annexed, a Dispensatory for the Use of Private Practitioners. J & B Williams, London.

Day, Nicholas. “Your Baby’s Teething? Rub a Minnow on It.” Slate Magazine. April 17, 2013. Accessed March 16, 2017.

 Hunter, Sonja. “Rethinking “Teething” Deaths.” Rethinking “Teething” Deaths. March 01, 2013. Accessed March 10, 2017. .

Kane, Kathryn. “Corals:   Protection for Teething Babies.” The Regency Redingote. January 09, 2014. Accessed March 6, 2017.

 Mims, Robert. “S.L. DOCTOR EXAMINES THE MYSTERY OF PIONEER INFANTS’ `TEETHING’ DEATHS.” December 22, 1991. Accessed March 10, 2017.–DEATHS.html.

Stempniak, Marty. “TBT: In the 1800s, One Opium-Laced Drug Helped Moms Soothe the Pains of Teething Children.” H&HN. March 31, 2016. Accessed March 16, 2017.–s-one-opium-laced-drug-helped-moms-soothe-the-pains-of-teething-children .

Mar 18 2017

Longbourn: Dragon Entail Chapter 6

Ok, so I’m als a sucker. You asked for chapters weekly…I guess I’ll do chapters weekly now. How about we check in with exactly what Darcy is up to as well. He better have a good reason for not coming to the rescue–right? (Don’t forget, comments really do inspire me to write faster…just saying…)

Find previous chapters HERE

Of course Aunt Catherine required a change of garments before leaving for the dragon’s lair. A walking dress, he was informed, was the proper attire for one to call upon dragons.

 Thankfully Miss Elizabeth had no such notions when rushing out from the ball to rescue Pemberley. He really ought to replace that gown for her. All things considered, there was little chance her father would do that for her.

 Rosings’ cavern lay along an overgrown path, deep in the woods along the west side of the estate, well away from the grazing pastures, small farms and tenant houses. Although Rosings would never violate the accords and harm a trespasser, she was by nature grouchy and no one wanted to make her grouchier.

Cait flew out to greet them whilst they were still a hundred yards off. She was a spectacular example of a cockatrix in her prime, covered in glossy black feathers, punctuated with deep purple along her head ruff and deep blue under her wings. Her head ruff was so full and fluffy, it was hard to make out her face, only the tip of her razor-honed beak stood out. She boasted tail feathers so long, they often dragged the ground when she perched. If one considered looks alone, it was hard to understand Walker’s adverse reaction to her, especially since she had chosen him.

“You have deigned to grace us with your presence.” Cait landed in front of them and bent her head toward the ground, but her wings were still spread.

Cockatrix sarcasm at its finest.

“Do not take that tone with me. You well know I have been occupied. I should have thought the two of you could manage a baby between you. Especially considering that you have raised two broods already.” Aunt Catherine flipped her skirts at Cait.

“Mine did not have teeth, and I assure you feather scales are not nearly so arduous to grow as teeth.” Cait flapped her wings and took off, trailing her tail feathers over their shoulders.

She must be tired and worn too, stooping to such obvious insults.

He could not blame Walker, not at all.

Aunt Catherine gathered her skirts and stormed into the hillside cavern.

At some point long ago, small cracks had opened up in the ceiling, just enough to let some light through, but still overgrown enough to keep out the rain. He paused a moment for his eyes to adjust. At last, he could make out a broad expanse, swept clear by a dragon’s tail. Along the nearest wall, a pile of soft leaves and underbrush formed Pemberley’s nest, where she lay fitful and whining softly. Several yards away, Rosings stretched out across the ground, forelegs thrown over her ears.

“Cowntess,” Aunt Catherine called.

How she loved those reminders of rank, her own and her dragon’s.

Rosings rose to her feet and shook. Starting at her head, it progressed down her shoulders, her wings, to the tip of her tail. A small cloud of dust stirred. Darcy sneezed into his handkerchief.

The firedrake Cowntess, was an exemplar of her kind. Like Pemberley, she was various shades of red, from pale red at her underbelly, to deep red, nearly purple along her spine. Her talons reflected the meager light, sharp as Cait’s beak. Her smooth scales, dusty now, shone when freshly cleaned. Nose to base of tail she must have been fifteen feet long, with another eight feet of tail behind her. Fully extended, her wings probably spanned over twenty feet. None had ever measured them though. And since she only flew on nights with no moons, none alive now had actually seen her in flight. She was a very private creature.

“Lady.” Rosings bobbed her head and Aunt Catherine curtsied.

How very different this was from the warm, almost intimate greetings that Miss Elizabeth shared with her dragon friends. At first it had seemed so odd, so improper to him, now Aunt Catherine seemed too stiff and formal.

“Will you introduce me to your guest?”

Rosings rolled her eyes. “If she will see you.”

“Pemberley is much taxed by teething right now.” Darcy hurried to her side. The last thing he needed was Aunt Catherine agitating Pemberley—and it took very little to do so.

“I shall determine that for myself.” In a swish of skirts, Aunt Catherine stormed toward the nest, Rosings barley half a step ahead.

“You should rise and greet your guest.” Rosings nosed Pemberley.

Pemberley lifted her head blinking. “She is not her. I want her.”

“What is the drakling blithering about?”

“Nothing to be concerned with. She spent a great deal of time with Miss Bennet—”

“Yes her!”

“And is having some difficulty adjusting to her removal.”

Aunt Catherine snorted. “That is why nursery maids should be changed out often. It is always a problem when youngsters get attached.”

“May I present my aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh?” Darcy gestured toward her.

“She is not her.” Pemberley looked away.

“You will not be rude to my Keeper.” Rosings slapped the tip of her tail on the ground.

“Yes, Cowntess.” Pemberley clambered to her feet, eyes down. “Greetings, Lady.”

“That is better.” Aunt Catherine nodded, still scowling. “Now, I have heard your teeth are troublesome.”

“I have no teeth.” Pemberley turned her face away.

“Yes, but you will soon. Now open your mouth and let me see.”


“I insist. Do as you are told.”


Darcy edged closer. “Now, Pemberley. If she—ah ‘her’—asked you, would you do so?”


“Then please do so now. Lady only wants to see you well, like ‘her’.”

Aunt Catherine glowered at him, but Pemberley opened her mouth.

Hopefully she would not bite.

Aunt peered into Pemberley’s mouth, but stopped short of putting her hand inside. She did have baby fangs after all.

Aunt Catherine turned her back on Pemberley. “There is no doubt the trouble is teething. But that is very good because now we have a solution.”

“We do?”

“Of course. All she needs is to have her gums lanced to reveal the teeth, just like any infant. Then this nonsense shall be over. I shall make arrangements for it immediately. Perhaps Cait can do it, her talons might do very nicely.” In a swish of skirts, she bustled from the cavern.

“What she mean, lance?” Pemberley tucked her head under Darcy’s arm.

“It is a surgery to free your teeth from your gums. It is often done for babies as I understand—teething is very dangerous you know.”

At least it was for humans, but who knew if it was for Dragons.

Miss Elizabeth probably would.

“No, it not dangerous.  It itches. It hurts. Make it stop. I no want Cait talons in my mouth. I will bite her.” She rustled her wings.

That usually signaled the beginning of a tantrum.


“You must not bite. You know that.”

“Rosings say I can if someone hurt me.”

Technically she was right. Self-defense was an admissible reason for dragon aggression.

“Cait is your friend.”

“No she not. She thinks I am vex … vexanamous … vexatious. I not know what means vexatious, but it not sound good.”

“She thinks Walker is vexatious too, and she likes him a great deal.” He scratched under her chin.

She took his wrist in her mouth and gummed it, whining. “Make it better.”

He took her face in his hands and pressed his forehead to her. “I will find some way to make it better, soon.”

Pray he would be able to keep that promise. If only Miss Elizabeth was near.


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Mar 16 2017

Don’t miss Snowbound at Hartfield Ch 16

Find it here.

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