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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Ring of Fire

Last week I wrote about one of the astronomic phenomena that occurred in my new book, Henrietta's Journal, and now is coming again in 2017. The meteor shower that happened in November 1833 was not all that unusual an occurrence, except for the fact that it was unusually bright. Our own shower, scheduled for tomorrow night, is looking a little "iffy" at the moment. We'll need a clear sky to see it in all its glory--and the weather fellow on today's noon news sounded pretty pessimistic about that happening. I'm still keeping fingers crossed, however, in hopes that you will witness a wonderful display tomorrow night and then be moved to read the book about the earlier one., 

I'm more hopeful about the second event, both because it is rarer and because it will be harder to miss, especially in this part of the country and in Charleston. On Monday, Aug. 21, as nearly everyone knows by now, we are scheduled to witness an eclipse of the sun. Its path will take it over much of Tennessee and then straight into Charleston, South Carolina for a spectacular finish. 

The earlier eclipse occurred in Charleston on May 15, 1836. It was somewhat different than the one we will experience, in that it was what the experts call an "annular" eclipse. That happens when the moon is at its furthest distance from the earth when it begins to cast its shadow over the sun. But because of its distant position, the shadow is noticeably smaller than the disk of the sun. So even when the eclipse is entirely over the sun, it will leave a "ring of fire" to border the shadow. The world may not have turned quite as dark as our own will, but it was certainly dark enough to grab the attention of everyone and to frighten more than a few observers.

No matter how wise we may be about the causes of the phenomena (debris from the tail of a comet, a shadow)--there is still something both majestic and frightening about unnatural changes. in the sky. All early cultures developed myths about gods who fought each other abd destroyed the sun in the process. And even today, there are folks warning about bad omens that are a part of the eclipse experience. So it will come as no surprise to readers of Henrietta's Journal to find a slave muttering under her breath, "Um-um-um. Dat be bad."

What has Saturday's Meteor Shower to Do with Henrietta Ainesworth?


When I’m getting ready to start writing a new book, I take the time to find out what was going on during the historical period in question.  Normally I’m looking for wars, major battles, presidential elections, economic crises, inventions, new laws—any event that might change the lives of my characters. When my story is set in Charleston, South Carolina or the Low Country between Charleston and Savannah, I check the weather conditions, too. That’s a region prone to hurricanes, major temperature fluctuations, insect infestations, earthquakes, and lethal epidemics.
 
This time, however, I was in for a surprise. I was getting reading to write Henrietta’s Journal, set in Charleston in the 1830s, and I wanted to know if there had been any hurricanes. The period turned out to be relatively quiet on the weather front. Only a couple of tropical storms threatened, and those barely brushed the city. I was not expecting to find two major astronomical events. They were both so spectacular that I had to write them into my story. What caught me most off guard was the realization that just as I would be getting ready to announce the upcoming publication of this new book, two similar events would be happening  in South Carolina in 2017.
 
The first event was a massive storm of meteorities witnessed all across the South on November 13, 1833. No mere meteor shower, this! People were terrified, many declaring that the world was coming to an end as the sparks seemed to be falling all around them. The occasion was the Leonid Shower, which occurs in mid-November every thirty-three years. In 1833, the earth’s orbit took it very close to the orbit of the comet Tempel-Tuttle and was said to have caused some 100,000 shooting stars per minute. Another legend says that the song “Stars Fell on Alabama” was written to commemorate the event .  And witnesses declared that this famous woodcut was an accurate depiction of what happened.
 
Now, in 2017, we are told that an even greater meteor storm will fill the skies on Saturday, August 12. This one comes from the Swift-Tuttle comet and is called a Perseid shower. Although articles on the internet are claiming that it will be the brightest shower in human history, its expected 300 shooting stars per hour cannot hope to rival what Henrietta Ainesworth witnessed in 1833. Still if you want to get a feel for what Henrietta’s experience was like, it wouldn’t hurt to look up at the sky on Saturday night.

Stay tuned to hear about the second event.

Harbingers of Things To Come

Now that the Katzenhaus Summer Promotion is officially over, we’ll be moving on to some major announcements  about upcoming books. Let’s start with the answers to last week’s quiz questions.

Henrietta Ainesworth is a fictional character, which is why no one successfully “googled” her. She is the main character in my next book. She was born in 1832 in Oxford, England. Her father, Sir Ephraim Ainesworth, is the Keeper of Medieval Manuscripts at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. His office in Duke Humfrey’s Reading Room oversees scholarly access to such priceless holdings as the Digby 209—a twelfth-century manuscript containing the works of several prominent churchmen of the period. (Digby 209 is a little different in that the scribes who copied it did a lot of doodling in the margins—and some of the doodles are quite funny and more than a little pornographic.)

In 1832 Henrietta meets Julien Beauchene, an American from Charleston, South Carolina. His family has made a fortune by acting as cotton factors—which means they buy up cotton crops from plantation owners, store it in their warehouse, and then sell it for the highest possible price to textile manufacturers in England and France. When Henrietta and Julien fall in love, Henrietta faces several dilemmas. She is violently opposed to slavery; he is a slave-owner. She has led a sheltered, scholarly life in Oxford; he comes from the brash, energetic, and business-oriented new United States. Henrietta’s only role model as a wife is her mother, who is a take-charge, controlling woman who dominates her meek librarian husband. Julien’s mother died when her children were small, and Julien has grown up with the example of a strong and dominating father.  


Is there any hope for the marriage of Henrietta and Julien? The answer lies in the up-coming book. We’ll do a title and cover reveal in the next couple of days. Stay tuned.

Yankee Daughters -- Recipes

Pennsylvania Dutch Scrapple

Ingredients will vary with what is left after everyone else has claimed the parts of the pig for butchered meat, sausage with casings, or such delicacies as pickled pig’s feet. Similarly, every cook has her own favorite seasonings and cereal choices.
The meat involved is Pork --usually the head (chopped into four pieces), meat scraps from butchering, feet, heart and tongue, or other pork trimmings, if desired, including liver. You may discard the eyeballs if they make you squeamish. 




Instructions:
  • Boil meat in  water in a covered container until the soft tissue separates readily from the bone. Separate tissue from bone and grind with a fine grinder. Return the ground meat to the strained soup container and boil. 
  • Cereal is then added. A common cereal mixture is seven parts cornmeal and three parts of either buckwheat, white, or rye flour.
  • Approximately 4 lbs of the ground meat combined with 3 lbs of soup (liquid) plus 1 lb of cereal is sometimes used. 
  • Gradually moisten the cereal with a cool liquid (water or the cooled soup) to prevent lumping. 
  • Add this premoistened cereal to the ground meat-soup mixture slowly then boil for 30 minutes.
  • Prior to finishing boiling, add seasoning.A suggested seasoning combination for 8 lbs of finished scrapple would include 3 oz salt, 1/4 oz black pepper, 1/4 oz sweetened marjoram, 1/4 oz nutmeg, 1/4 oz sage or thyme, and 2-1/2 oz onions. Some prefer to add a pinch of mace and a pinch of red pepper also.
  • After the seasoning is mixed thoroughly and the onions cooked, pour the scrapple into pans (not bowls) and refrigerate to 30 - 32F degrees immediately.

Note this is usually made in large batches and saved throughout the year until the next butchering. It uses every part of the pig so nothing is wasted. 

To serve, slice, fry in hot lard until crispy on outside, and serve for breakfast with eggs or in sandwiches.




Apple Pan Dowdy

Ingredients: 
  • 6 tart apples
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablesoons butter
  • biscuit dough

Sprinkle with cinnamon (or other spicces); drizzle with molasses; dot with butter.Bake at about 375 degrees for 30 minutes. A few minutes before baking is finished, push pieces of the crust down into the juices. 




Katerina describes Apple pan dowdy: 

"A pan dowdy is like an apple pie, except you cook the apples in an iron skillet with just a top crust. And then about halfway through the baking time, you break up the crust and shove the pieces down into the bubbling apple juice so they soak up all that sweet goodness. It looks a mess, but add a dollop of cream on top, and you’ll beg for mercy!”




Be sure to get your Kindle version of Yankee Daughters while we're offering it for only $0.99 at:https://www.amazon.com/Yankee-Daughters-Grenville-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B01M1LPY2H

Yankee Daughters--An Excerpt

 Chapter 22, “Love Makes the World Go ‘Round




As promised, Mr. Jernigan brought the proof copies of his photos out to the house in mid-afternoon. Katerina pinned them to the wall so that everyone could study them. The formal pose showed the nine women lined up like spoons, their left sides to the camera. In a more casual shot, they clustered on the front steps, three sitting in front and the others facing forward behind them. Katerina and Becca were the first to study the results of the photo session.
“I think I hate photographs,” Katerina declared. “Cameras don’t lie, but it would often be better if they did.” 

“The pictures really came out quite well, Kat. You will cherish these for years.”

“No, don’t try to be diplomatic. I’m looking at all of us here and seeing our personalities on display as clearly as if we were wearing big signs around our necks.”

“I admit, I don’t like the formal line-up as well as the other one. I know convention says one should not smile in a photograph, but I’ve never understood why. You wanted these pictures to show that the long months of mourning were over, but everyone still looks too serious.”

“It’s more than looking serious. We all look like we’ve been sucking on lemons. I suppose those sour expressions are the result of my blow-up at Ruby for showing up in that horrible dress. But there are other things wrong with the pictures, too. I deliberately made Fiona and Sally’s dresses shorter, to show that they are the youngest. But captured this way in a photograph, it just looks like they are sprouting so fast that they’ve outgrown their own skirts.”

“They are growing up fast, I give you that. Look at them. They are easily the tallest. I suppose Mr. Jernigan did the arranging deliberately to put the two shortest girls on the ends and the tallest in the middle. But I see what you mean about the skirt lengths.”

“And the facial expressions! Take us one at a time: Martha is a complete blank. She neither knows nor cares what’s going on around her. I, on the other hand, am clearly biting my tongue to keep from screaming at someone. Nora? Nora looks tired. I think she is tired most of the time, and that makes me worry about her health. Then there’s Lillian—the unhappy, confused, browbeaten wife of a miserable prig!”

“Kat! Really!”

“Well, she is. At best she looks stupid. Then there’s Sally, she of the perpetual pout, and Fiona, she who is so smug about her own charms that she sometimes makes me want to slap her. Millie’s the sweetest of the lot, but here, even she appears to be wondering how she ended up in this group. Gloria is serene. I suppose having a rich man in love with you will do that, although I wouldn’t know from experience. And, of course, Ruby, the perennial bone in my craw, doing whatever she can to upset things and then thoroughly enjoying the show.”

“All right. I admit the line-up looks like it could be added to the post office wall, where they show mug shots of miscreants. But the informal grouping is much more pleasant.”

“Only because some of us are laughing at the rest of us. Something else in that picture bothers me, too. Ruby has her head cocked in that smart-alecky way she has of sneering at us. And if you look on the other side, you’ll see that Sally is doing the same thing. Heaven help us if Sally turns out to be as troublesome as Ruby has been!”

“They are still your daughters, Katerina, and I know you love each one of them.”

Ich liebe dich immer. Love them? Yes. I can’t help that. Aber ich weiß nicht immer Sie mögen. But nobody says I have to like them. And this has been a weekend when I really don’t like any of them. Too bad this was the moment I picked to preserve their images.”


Be sure to get your Kindle version of Yankee Daughters while we're offering it for only $0.99 at: