Reason #22 Why writing takes so long

#22 Getting the Details Right

 

It isn’t hard to find online comments about the adorable pink jellybean toes our kitty-friends sport. (And yeah, they are utterly adorable–especially when they have freckles on their toes like one of my kitties does. Those are the cutest things ever! I digress though.)

Have you ever noticed just how much their paw pads look like little pink teddy bear faces? The chin, the little pink ears–total teddy bear right? Naturally,  that calls for adding in just the right details–eyes, nose, and a smile! (At least on the pink ones, haven’t quite figured out how to do that on the black cat’s darling black piddy-paws. Note to self: find my white ballpoint pen.)

Does that make me a bad kitty-mama, that I feel compelled to add in the missing details to their teddy-bear pitty paws? Just like with a story, the right details just make everything so … complete. It just has to be done.

And really, think about it. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask–especially in rent payment for the desk real estate they take up for their daily naps. For most of the day, fully a third of my desk is take up by a sleeping cat–and it two want to sleep there at once, then it approaches seventy five percent of my desk–they seem to ‘ooze’ more when several of them are together. (Do you suppose there is an exponential ‘cat melt’ factor associated with the number of cats piled together?)

There’s a knack to it though–their jellybean toes are ticklish so you have to be quick lest their teddy bear has a lopsided grin. But never fear, I have a quick hand and have just about perfected the art of teddy-bears-on-toes faces.

Funny though, I seem to be the only one who notices the cute little details on their toes. They are utterly indifferent. Sigh.

For more reasons writing takes so long, click HERE

Elizabeth’s First Dragon journey

dragon-banner

Peek into Elizabeth Bennet’s world of dragons through her commonplace book of dragon experiences. Today she takes her first dragon journey with her father on official Blue Order Business.

 If you missed the start of grown up Elizabeth’s adventure with dragons, check out THIS POST. If you missed the first installment in Elizabeth’s Commonplace Book, you can find it HERE.


August 1801  

I am supposed to be packing my carpetbag to leave in just an hour—I should not be stopping to write. But I cannot help it. I must capture my excitement on paper lest it get the better of me in the carriage, and I drive Papa to distraction.

Papa just told me I am to accompany him on Blue Order business today! Blue Order business! He said I am finally big enough to be of use on such a trip and to be able to conduct myself in such a way to be a credit to him and to the Order! For years, he has traveled on such endeavors but always left me to wonder what he might do on these travels. Now, I shall finally know. 

I guess all my studies of dragon etiquette and the like have finally paid off! I have been ever so diligent this year, I can hardly believe my good fortune!  I fear Mary will be jealous, but she is far too young to travel, she is only nine. Jane does not seem interested in traveling, so that is good, I would hate for her to feel bad in the wake of my good fortune. I am sure, now that mama has dismissed the nursery maid, Lydia will keep Jane so happily occupied she will hardly notice that I am gone.

Mama does not approve of me going, though, but I am hardly surprised. I think she would rather travel with Papa herself. She likes to meet new people. Perhaps if we had a governess, she would go with him, but I heard Papa say there is no money for one. Mama was not happy to hear that. Besides, even if she went with him, since she cannot hear dragons and knows nothing of the Blue Order, she would be little help to him.

I suppose, it is a bit unkind of me to be so happy about the journey. The reason I am going is to copy documents for Papa. His hands hurt him too much to write, and there will be much writing on this trip. That is what finally convinced Mama I should be allowed to go instead of Jane who is the eldest and should receive such privleges—my hand is much neater than hers.

I should feel bad that Papa is hurting, and truly, I do. Still though, is it wrong to be excited to travel to a place I have not seen before and meet a new dragon?  

We are going to Loxdale Green to meet with Mr. Oliver Garland, an apothecary with a shop by the name of Bedlow’s. Hmmm, perhaps he might now some sort of herb that will be helpful for Papa’s pains. I will have to ask him about it. I am sure Papa will not. He does not like to talk about his problems.

Papa says Mr. Garland found some genealogies in the attic of his shop that are of interest to the Order. Papa must examine the texts, and if he deems them genuine, I am to copy them. Then, they will be bound and added to the genealogies of the library of the Blue Order. He has already warned me three times that my copies must be very neat and entirely free from mistakes or I will have to do them over and over again to get them right. He was very stern about that.

But I do not mind. The thought that something I have penned will be in the Blue Order library is reward enough to make me want to do a very good job of it. I might be the youngest scribe to have ever written anything for the order. There is no way to tell for sure, but the idea is very pleasing nonetheless. I do not think I will tell Papa, though, he might find me prideful.

The journey is only four hour ride by coach, but it is the farthest away from home I have ever been. Mama does not think travel to small towns to be of much value. There are few people of significance to meet in them, she says. But I am sure she would feel differently if she knew of dragons and the chance to meet them!

Then again, Mr. Garland’s dragon is only a minor drake and a very young one as I understand. He is not the sort that Mama would be likely to find important enough to meet. She would probably insist upon meeting only the major dragons in a region! I cannot image what would happen if she did, though. Papa still has not introduced me to Longbourn. He fears it will be too much for me. He wants me to meet more small dragons first, to prepare me, I suppose. But I still do not quite understand why.

Oh! He is calling and I have still not packed. I must hurry! 


Get the series in ebook and paperback!

Please support this author and this site by using this affiliate link.

Introducing the Dragon Index

Today is appreciate a dragon day! What better way to appreciate them than by launching a reference to all things dragon! It will be expanding in the next few months. You can find the index at its permanent home HERE.


Blue Order: The governing body of human-dragon relations in England. Made up of all major dragons, their Keepers and all humans who hear dragons, they are charged with managing all matters related to dragons in the country and maintaining the secrecy of dragon kind.

Conclave: Judicial body of England’s dragons, similar to Parliament. 

Dragon: A cold blooded, sentient creature that may take many forms, but most have reptilian qualities. Their sentience sets them apart from lesser creatures whom they resemble.  Dragons speak in sound frequencies (both high and low) that only humans with exceptional hearing can detect. The majority who cannot hear dragons are able to detect their speech at a subconscious level leaving them open to suggestions by the dragon. A small part of the population is entirely deaf to dragon voices and can neither hear, nor be persuaded by dragons.

Dragon Keep: The territory assigned to a major dragon, usually including hunting land, a dragon lair, and a home for the Dragon Keeper

Dragon Keeper: Human being in a mutually beneficial relationship with a major dragon. Usually a member of the gentry or peerage, owner, in the eyes of human law of the dragon’s Keep.

Dragon Friend: Human being in a mutually beneficial relationship with a minor dragon

Dragon Mate: A human being in a particular mutually beneficial relationship with a dragon, includes Dragon Keepers and Dragon Friends.

Pendragon Treaty: Established by Uther Pendragon, the treaty ended the last dragon war on English soil. The Pendragon accords established the relative ranks for the major dragons so they no longer fight for precedence and set out the guidelines for human-dragon relations.

Dragon Ranks

Dragons are ranked first by their size and power. All the major dragons, those bigger than a large horse outrank all the minor dragons, smaller than themselves. The major dragons are the draconic upper class and the minor dragons, the lower ones. Among the major dragons, the most powerful species rank above the weaker ones.

The dragons of England are led by their Brenin (or Brenhines if it were a female dragon). A fire drake, he or she administers dragon law and the Pendragon Accords across England and deals with necessary matters with dragons of other lands.

Underneath the Brenin  are the Dugs (and Duges) who take leadership roles in the Dragon Conclave.  They administer the different counties and, with the Conclave, decide matters of dragon law.  All are firedrakes.

Cownts and Cowntesses serve under the Dugs. They are responsible for regions in their counties, managing the major dragons and their keepers.

Vikonts and Vicontes, administer smaller areas are report to Cownts and Cowntesses.  Barwins and Barwines, administer smaller areas are report to Vikonts and Vikontesses. Marchogs and Marchoes administer smaller areas are report to Barwins and Barwnes.

 Lairds and Lairdas who are the lowest of the major dragons, the draconic parallel of an untitled gentleman or gentlewoman. Their task is to manage all the minor dragons in their territory. Minor dragons have no titles.

Dragon Types:

The dragons of England are organized by type according to their size and the  shape of their heads. There are snake types, wyrm types, dragon types and bird types. Major dragons are those larger than a horse, minor dragons are those smaller.

Bird Types

No accounts of any major bird-type dragons have been recorded. All the bird type dragons have bird-like beaks. Some are very delicate, like hummingbirds, others are powerful like birds of prey. Bird-types also have wings, but that is not their defining characteristic. Most are predators, but some varieties of fairy dragons feed exclusively on flowers and fruit.

Dragon Types

Dragon types are mistakenly referred to as lizard types because the shape of their heads–and often the rest of them as well–resembles large lizards. They take a variety of forms, some with wings, frills, hoods or fins. They are the most common dragon-type in England

Snake Types

The snake type dragons all have a thin, narrow head like a normal snake with large eyes on either side of the head. Many have fangs and all have a long forked tongue. They may or may not be venomous. Some of their venom possesses healing qualities.

Wyrm Types  

Wyrm type dragons are often confused with snake type dragons because they have long thin bodies like snake types. Their heads though are very different. Their jaws tend to be square and toothy, although some have a decidedly feline look to them. Nearly all have fur or a bushy mane of feathery or spiny structures around their heads. 

Major Dragons:

Amphitheres

A large snake-type dragon with broad wings ample to permit flight. Their heads and wings are covered with brightly colored feathers, giving them a very distinct look. The Amphithere mates for life, but only lives with its mate while bearing and raising its young.

Basilisk: 

Dragon lore says the basilisk is the king of snakes, with lizard like legs and a tuft of feathers that resembles a crown on its head. Mythology says its looks can kill, but that is not true. Instead,  their appearance can be so frightening that when one sees it, one might be scared motionless. In the days before the Pendragon Treaty, that usually meant death at the jaws of the basilisk.

They are ill-tempered as a whole. They like neither man, nor dragon. Major basilisks tolerate keepers because they have to, but minor ones rarely have Dragon Friends.

Blue Pa Snake

Blue Pa Snakes resemble enormous, unnaturally blue  snakes. They sound like an entire regiment of soldiers drumming in rhythm as they approach. They also sport hoods like Indian cobra snakes and great long fangs,by which they can deliver a bite raging from painful to deadly. 

Drake

The most common type of dragon in England. Like wyrms, there are both major and minor drakes. They can be nearly as large as a fire drake or as small as a large dog. Major drakes argue that the small ones are really a different type altogether. But the Blue Order cannot agree on that point.

Most major drakes resemble one another with four legs, a long tail and a lizard like body and head. Minor drakes may vary widely in their appearance. Some have frills that they can expand in defensive or dominance displays. Others have spikes along their heads, horns or spines. Some have fins along their back and bony nubs on the ends of their tails. 

Firedrakes

Firedrakes are the largest, most powerful of all the dragons, living up to 500 years.

Fire drakes are able to fly, though most only do so on moonless nights, lest they be seen by the dragon deaf. They can also breathe fire–the only type which can do so. They are the only type permitted by the Pendragon Accords to hoard precious metals or gems.

Lindwyrms

These major wyrms have powerful forelegs which they use to burrow through even hard ground, making them range farther than other wyrms. They have an unfortunate taste for horsemeat, which makes them very unwelcome near the settlements of men, particularly on the continent where interactions between dragons and men are not governed by the Pendragon treaty.

Many lindwyrms have a penchant for learning and philosophy, even art. Some consider them the intellectuals of dragonkind. Their forepaws can be nimble and some can even write and draw. 

Wyrms

Wyrm dragons range widely in size. The largest are major dragons, the smallest can be mistaken for mundane snakes. Their jaws tend to be square and toothy, not fanged like snakes. Some have distinct manes, giving them a leonide appearance.  The smaller, minor wyrms are apt to be ill-tempered and resentful of any of might step on them.

Wyverns

Wyverns are among the smallest of the major dragons and the weakest of them all. The have wings, but no forepaws, and fangs which can deliver a venomous bite. Like firedrakes, they can fly and can breathe poison, much in the way a fire drake breathes fire. 

Minor Dragons

Cockatrice

The Cockatrice displays sexual dimorphism unique among dragon species. The males’ head and body resemble birds of prey in shape, covered with feather-scales. Their wings are leathery and their tails long and serpentine. In size, they match the range of birds of prey. Females, known as Cockatrix, are very rare and very showy. With spectacular feather headdresses and tails, they resemble show chickens.

Both males and females are said to be very aggressive and rarely deign to associate with creatures over whom they can assert dominance.

Fairy Dragons

The smallest of all dragon species, they are said to be silly and senseless. They are preyed upon by wild dragons, birds of prey, cats and the like perhaps contributing to their flighty and nervous reputation.

Bright and colorful, like hummingbirds, some subsist on flower nectar and fruit. Others eat small insects and worms. Although the smaller ones are more common, some can be as large as pigeons.

They are affectionate creatures, a favor dragon friend among highborn ladies.

Tatzelwyrms

Cat-like in front and snake-like in the back, these minor dragons move about by coiling their long bodies and hopping forward a bit like a spring. Some say the spring-hopping along addles their brains and leaves them quite daft.

Puks

Puks are the smallest of the dragon types. Some say they are good luck. They are also know to be mischievous . The size of a lady’s dog, they often pass themselves as pugs and other cute dogs, living in the house, often constantly at the mistress’s side. They have wing nubs, but no real wings, and a hood that stands up when they are angry or afraid.

Hoarders by nature, they are drawn to pretty, shiny baubles. Most content themselves with coins and buttons, but some prefer jewelry and are apt to steal what catches their eye. It can be a real danger for anyone who keeps a puk.

Zatyls

Pretty, little snake types, usually long and dark green with a head ridge that looks a little like a bad lady’s hat. They are said to be very good luck to one who finds one. They are particularly fond of milk and will often enter a house that places a dish of milk out for it. In generally they are sweet natured and non-aggressive. 

 

 

  


 

Get the series in ebook and paperback!

Please support this author and this site by using this affiliate link.

Making Drinking Chocolate the Regency Way

Making drinking chocolate in the regency era was a time consuming, labor intensive process, beyond the means of many, particularly if started from dried cacao nibs. 


Because anything induced by chocolate MUST be a good idea, its time for another chocolate-induced dive down the research rabbit hole!

Just to refresh your memory a bit, during the regency era, there were three particular luxury drinks: tea, coffee and chocolate. (I talked about tea recently, you can find that HERE. ) They were in high demand, but expensive to acquire and, in the case of chocolate, difficult to make. 

Drinking chocolate, which was most typically enjoyed at breakfast and in the evening before bed, was thick, even syrupy, very different from tea or coffee. Its thickness, and the need to preserve the froth on top meant that special cups were required to properly enjoy sipping the chocolate through the milky froth on top and special pots were developed to assist in making and serving that froth.  

Hannah Glasse, a well know period cookbook author,  offered two recipes for preparing the nibs for use.

How to make Chocolate.

 TAKE fix pounds of cocoa-nuts, one pound of anise-seeds, four ounces of long-pepper, one of cinnamon, a quarter of a” pound of almonds, one pound of pistachios, as much achiote as will make it the colour of brick, three grains of musk, and as much amber-grease, fix pounds of loaf-sugar, one ounce of nutmegs, dry and beat them, and scarce them through a fine fire ; your almonds must be beat to a paste, and mixed with the other ingredients; then dip your sugar in orange-flower or rose-water, and put it in a skillet, on a very gentle charcoal fire ; then put in the spice, and stew it well together, then the musk and amber-grease, then put in the cocoa-nuts last of all then achiote, wetting it with the water the sugar was dipped in stew all these very well together over a hotter fire than before; then take it up, and put it into boxes, or what form you like and set it to dry in a warm place. The pistachios and almonds must be a little beat in a mortar, then ground upon a stone.

 Another Way to make Chocolate.

TAKE fix pounds of the best Spanish nuts, when parched, and cleaned, from the hulls, take three pounds of sugar, two ounces of the best cinnamon, beaten and sifted very fine; to every two pound of nuts put in three good vanelas, or more or less as you please; to every pound of nuts half a drachm of cardamom-seeds, very finely beaten and searced.

 These recipes, which might also include cardamom, aniseed, cloves, bergamot(a major component in Earl Grey tea, tastes like Froot Loops), produced a hard, gritty chocolate tablet. A few people ate them straight as a type of candy, but most believed they would cause indigestion if eaten in that form.  These tablets were the basis of Regency drinking chocolate.

Even with premade chocolate tablets, it took thirty minutes or more of strenuous effort and several specialized kitchen items to prepare a cup of drinking chocolate. 

 First, a specialty chocolate grater would be used to shave the necessary amount of chocolate from the solid tablet. The powdered chocolate would be added to a large pan containing water, milk or possibly a mixture of water and wine or water and brandy and place over heat.

The chocolate/liquid mixture would be brought to a boil, while constantly stirring to prevent scorching. After it came to a boil, the cook removed it from the heat and used a special tool, known in England as a chocolate mill (in France a molinet, in Spain a molinilla) to agitate the mixture. At this point eggs, flour, corn starch or even bread might be added to the mixture to thicken it. The cook would spin the chocolate mill between her hands for several to incorporate the thickeners into the drinking chocolate.

After beating, the pot was returned to the heat and brought to a boil again while stirring constantly. At this stage, cream might be added. The chocolate mill would be employed once more to fully blend the mixture and raise a head of froth without which drinking chocolate was not considered fit to be served.

The finished drinking chocolate would be transferred to a special chocolate pot for service. A chocolate pot was taller and straighter than a tea pot, with a shorter spout than a coffee pot, placed high on the pot. It also sported a hinged finial on the lid to allow a coffee mill to be used while the lid was down to prevent splashing.  Reader about those here: Don’t serve your coffee from a chocolate pot!

Chocolate cups were taller and narrower than coffee or tea cups. Their unique shape made them more likely to spill, so special saucers known as coffee stands developed to steady the unstable cups.  Read about those here: Chocolate cups and trembleuse saucers

Those who could not afford all the specialty items made do with what they had, cooking their chocolate in skillets and drinking it out of whatever vessels they had.  If they could not afford chocolate at all, Hannah Glasse offered this recipe.

Sham Chocolate

TAKE a pint of milk, boil it over a slow fire, with some whole cinnamon, and sweeten it with Lisbon sugar; beat up the yolks of three eggs, throw all together into a chocolate-pot, and mill it one way, or it will turn. Serve it up in chocolate-cups.

Gingerbread might also be added to this beverage as a thickener.

This modern recipe captures many of the flavors of Regency drinking chocolate.

Spiced Hot Chocolate

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 strip lemon peel 1″ by 2″
  • 1 3″ cinnamon stick
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the first 5 ingredients to boiling, reduce heat simmer 3 min. Remove from heat whisk in cocoa and vanilla until foamy. Strain into warmed cups. Top with whipped cream.  From: http://www.janeausten.co.uk/a-passion-for-hot-chocolate/


 References

Hannah Glasse. The Art of Cooking Made Plain and Easy. W Strahan, 1784

Maria Rundell.  A new system of domestic cookery.  J Geave, 1839

Arthur Parker’s fortifying cocoa<http://www.janeausten.co.uk/arthur-parkers-fortifying-cocoa/>

Chocolate http://researchingfoodhistory.blogspot.com/search/label/Chocolate

Hot Chocolate 18th and 19th Century style <http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2008/08/09/hot-chocolate-18th-19th-century-style/>

Regency Chocolate http://historicalhussies.blogspot.com/2009/07/regency-chocolate.html>

Regency Chocolate: The correct accoutrements http://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/regency-chocolate-the-correct-accoutrements/>

Regency Chocolate-pale, thick and frothy http://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/regency-chocolate-mdash-pale-thick-and-frothy/>

Hurricane-1, Dragons-0

Why yes, the dragons are a bit delayed… 


A number of you have asked about the status of Netherfield: Rogue Dragon. I said the book would be available Winter 2017. (foolish woman, tempting fate!) It’s record cold, we’ve even had snow on the Gulf Coast (along with a hurricane and an earthquake, thank you every much!) It must definitely be winter now, right?

Yes, Virginia, it is absolutely winter. And yet there are no dragons.

I should have knowing saying something like that aloud was a deeply dangerous and foolish bit of hubris. And yet, I did it anyway. Needless to say, I have discovered the depth of my error. The best laid plans of (wo)man and dragons have been thwarted by forces even a dragon cannot control.

My planed intentions had been to pick up with Netherfield as soon as A Less Agreeable Man was out in the world. Uh, yeah, great notion. But I failed to consult the weather reports . Had I  done so, I might have noticed we were entering the height of hurricane season and thought better of making long range plans. Then again, I might not.

Either way, we were walloped by a storm of truly epic force that devastated the Texas Gulf Coast. (You can check out the chronicle here.)

fairy dragon

Without rehashing all the detains, I’ll sum it up here: Hurricane-1, Dragons-0. Match to the hurricane.

Fear not, though, the dragons are not down for the count. They’ve relit their fires and are looking for a rematch! And since hurricane season is well over and done with (thank heavens!), they’ve got a fighting chance!

I’ve got my dragon world and research notes all set up (over 125 pages) and story notes in place. The first chapters are in draft form. The process is underway.

I know what you’re about to say. Get to the important part, woman! So when will it be done?

Seriously, you would ask me that? After the last time I attempted to answer the question, I’m not taking a chance on answering a query like that! The entire state of Texas might fall off into the sea and I’m just not willing to chance that!

But once I get half-way through the draft or so,  I’ll start posting chapters here. So watch for that and you’ll have a sense of the progress.

In the mean time I’ll be posting regular dragon tidbits to keep your appetite whetted for all things draconic!

Thank so much for all your patience, support, and well wishes as the dragons retake their rightful place around here.

Load more

%d bloggers like this: