Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tea in Colonial America

The project that has my attention is set in pre-revolutionary Colonial America.  I am planning a trilogy focusing on the life of an ordinary man of the times from Maryland.  The first novel is -  John: the making of a Longhunter.  In that story we follow John from a child until he about 23, going through the coming of age, danger, love, conflict, success and failure.  As the title implies he goes through experiences and develops the skills to become one of the legendary Longhunters that opened up the western frontier of the times.

During the telling of his story, I often write that he stopped to rest and brewed tea.  He had tea at supper and for breakfast as well.  What is it with all this tea drinking?  Tea was a very popular and essential drink in Colonial America. In the late 1600's tea was very expensive in the colonies but be the mid 1700's is was the predominant drink.  Chocolate and coffee were popular with the French Americans, but tea was the drink of choice.  By 1768 the colonials were consuming about two million pounds of tea per year. Tea drinking fell off dramatically after the Boston Tea Party and the anger that the colonists felt toward King George and his tax.  Coffee started to become the replacement drink and, as one source put it that the "rebellion is undoubtedly responsible for America becoming a nation of coffee drinkers instead of tea drinkers."

The Longhunter story takes place between 1745 and 1768 placing it at the height of tea consumption. The Longhunters often carried tea as their drink of choice, although many also consumed a coffee made from chicory root and the"black drink" of the Indians made from the Yaupon Holly leaves.  
Two important varieties of tea were used during the time-frame of the books: Gunpowder Tea, a green tea where the leaves are rolled into little balls that resemble course black powder, and Bohea Tea (pronounced boo-hee) which was the most popular.  It was made of the scrap tea, broken orange pekoe, pekoe, and souchong dumped In a pile and then sifted.  

John drinks mostly Gunpowder tea which you can still buy to this day. Brew yourself a pot and taste what John had on the trail. Don't forget a good tea strainer since those little balls unroll when it is brewed!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Flash Literature

One very interesting genre of writing is Flash Literature.  It is minimalist composition that incorporates the necessary components of the particular piece written - fiction, essay, poetry, and so forth.  Part of the story might be implied so that the reader "fills in" the background, history, and setting.  Probably the most famous Flash Story is Hemingway's six word story:

"For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn."

Definitions of Flash Literature abound on the net.  In fact there are entire sites devoted to the subject such as  Another writer who has a good explanation is Adam Maxwell.  I will not try to duplicate their explanations or discussions, but merely describe how and why I write in the area of Flash Literature.

Probably the first reason I write in the genre is the challenge of putting an entire concept in a small space.  In the age of Twitter, there is a niche of writing named appropriately Twitter Fiction, limited to the 120 characters available.  So far that is a bit short for me, but I do try to break the 500 word mark.

The second reason is related - it is a good form of writing discipline.  The process makes the writer aware of any superfluous words (in my case WAY to many of the articles).  Finally, they are fun to write.

I put some examples of my Flash Essays on the Flash Literature page.

Monday, February 25, 2013

I got the short story The Trouble with Orthography put on the Short Story page.  It is a short humorous blurb that was a hoot to write.  I will occasionally put bits up for folks to read. Hope you enjoy.

Today has been a day of figuring out the way to have the blog and Facebook work together.  I was just going to do a couple of things and then get to writin'.  So much for that - but I did get a feeling for how to do this blog and start to do some promotional stuff.  

With the blossoming of independent authors and publishing, the author must spend time hawking his or her wares.  In reading about the process, many of the authors have said that they spend several hours a week on promotion.  There is a inherent struggle with wanting to sit and write and the need to make sure people know that you have tales to tell, and convincing them that they can not make it through a day without gathering your golden prose about them.  So each day becomes a balancing act.

Along with that is the necessity to get out and do some blacksmithing and iron work to make some here-and-now money.  Sleep may become an optional activity (except, of course for the 3PM nap).

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Adding my voice to the multitude of writing blogs provides an opportunity to express my feelings and insights while I work on completing my writing projects.  You have heard it all before - the solitary nature of the process, setting daily and long-term writing goals, and dealing with those days when one stares blankly at the wall, brain empty of all except the distracting negative thoughts.  Those days prompted the title of my blog.  

When you stare into the abyss the abyss stares back.  

The blog posts will contain my thoughts and impressions on all of my writing projects as I work on them.  The pages listed on the right are devoted to the different projects.  At present I am working on the "John" series.  The first novel in the series John: the making of a Longhunter begins the story of a young man who   proceeds through the coming of age years in Colonial America.  We follow this process through triumph and tragedy, joy and sorrow, love and hate, alienation and reconciliation to his emergence as one of the legendary Longhunters who explored and exploited the frontier of the times.  That novel is essentially finished and I plan to have it available at all available e-books sources by July 2013.  

Currently I am working on two projecst simultaneously:  John: Longhunter to Longknife, the second novel in the John series and Education as Spiritual Initiative.  ESI is a compilation of essays dealing with the assertion that education is a spiritual or transcendent activity.  The book incorporates revisions of the previously published Education as Spiritual Enterprise expanded with to nearly three times the original length.  So I am working on novel-length fiction and essay-length non-fiction at the same time - well not exactly at the same time, but you know what I mean.

This blog will be fluid, changing in shape and perhaps purpose as I go along.  I hope you will join in the process and provide your own insights.