Life Update!

Exciting times ahead, and I want to keep you updated. First, I’m all into Tai Chi for health! My health, like many out there, needs attention, and I’ve discovered the benefits of this ancient form of marital arts. As a writer, I’ve got to be centered, focused and as stress free as possible;-) Of course, stress is a common companion for any writer, but it doesn’t have to rule you. Plus, stress wrecks havoc on our immune systems, skin, hair, organs, you name it. So, if you haven’t tried Tai Chi, give it a go!

Next, I’m avidly writing the second installment of The Protectorate series. While it’s slow going, it’s coming along nicely. Like fine wine, my books get better with the wait;-) So, stay tuned as I get closer to finishing it and sending it off to my trusted and brilliant Beta Readers!

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In addition to life’s events and writing, I’m thrilled to read any second I get. My current reading list includes: The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki, Defiant Brides by Nancy Rubin Stuart along with lots of books/articles on George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Who says you can’t have fun researching? My love for all things historical runs deep, and I’m up to my shoulders in research for my series.

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Cover via Amazon.com

 

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Cover via Amazon.com

Lastly, I’m gearing up for a new path in writing, and I can’t wait to share it. However, I’ll release information on it in due time. Just know that lots of time, energy and effort have gone into this new project, and I’m thrilled for the opportunity!

So, what books are you reading? I’d love to know! Comment below and read on:-)

Happy writing/reading,

KD

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Writer’s Life of Research

Good day to be a writer, don’t you think? I know NaNoWriMo is around the corner and lots of people are vigorously preparing for the onslaught, ahem… process. My life, unfortunately, is filled to the brim with research, editing, formatting, rewriting, and writing, among other life adventures, that I am not participating in November’s 50,000 words. However, for those of you that are, I wish you the very best in your November adventure!

For me, daily life consists of, well, writing. Of course, I write a little, but my mainstay of writing is the research. Tons of hours go into research, and I’m not ashamed to say it. Studious as a college freshman, I read, highlight, take notes and inspect pictures to the ‘nth’ degree before ever putting pen to paper or typing like the wind on the keyboard. Some writers plan every nitty gritty detail of each chapter using excel spreadsheets, and that’s great if it works for you! Alas, it’s not for me.

So, what’s my plan for writing? Glad you asked;-) I’m more of a fly by the seat of my pants with a skeletal outline of the beginning, middle and end. Of course, I throw in notes for the parts between the beginning and middle/middle to the end, but that’s it. I write, edit, rewrite, edit, so on and so forth until the inner instinct kicks in, telling me it’s ready to publish. However, this post is more about my love of research. So…

For me, research is key to elevating a good book to a great one. Sure, it takes loads of time. Sure, it can seem cumbersome and slow down the time it takes between published books, but it’s my cup of tea, and I’m sticking to it. For instance, right now, I’m writing my second in a series beginning with The Protectorate. Globe trotting and running head first into trouble, my main character Anna never had it so bad  good;-) Since her travels take her to the likes of Austria, Argentina and Germany, among others, I get to research these wonderful places and put Anna through the ringer either in a rainforest, museum or war memorial. It allows my mind the ability to create with an ease I’d never have without all the research.

You see, I’m one of “those” people who can’t write without knowing a little about the places my characters visit. While I don’t have to be spot on, I’d like to be as accurate as possible, and until I’ve made enough money to travel to those far away places, I’ll have to settle for second hand accounts of places my characters visit. Of course, I use google, but I also read countless books on historical places and speak to people who’ve been to some of these places. Pictures from trips are a treasure trove of information as well. It’s important to utilize all sources when writing.

In my second book, Anna travels to Germany, and I’ve had the pleasure of reading up on the culture, museums and places to visit. One such place I’ve stumbled upon is the Wilhelm Kaiser War Memorial in Berlin. Snug in the center of shopping and hotels, this museum has a history that compelled me to write it into the second of my series. I’ve spent days on learning the structural aspects of this restored church, architecture and history before ever putting pen to paper. Even after all the research, I find myself wanting to know even more about it’s history, and this is why I love the writer’s life. Folks, we get paid to dream, and research is a huge part of that for me.

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Photo credit: Thomas Favre-Bulle

 

Is researching a must in writing? No, but I’d be lost without it. So, off I go into the world of researching and writing, and who knows? Maybe one of these days, I’ll visit a place close to your home;-)

I love to hear from you! Has anyone visited the Wilhelm Kaiser War Memorial in Berlin? Where else have you gone that’s stuck inside your memory banks forever? Comment or send me a message, and please, whatever you do, keep reading!

Happy reading/writing,

KD

Dinner With The President

My passion for all things historical led me down the path of U.S. Presidential china upon my latest research endeavors in fiction writing. In order to stay true in my writing to events, places and people, I end up doing hours and hours of research pertaining to clothing styles, weather patterns, and, yes, dinnerware too.

A part in The Protectorate initially described Anna’s reaction to the glamorous dinner table setting at her Director’s house, but in the end I decided to take it out for various reasons. However, I spent a large amount of time researching how Rachel Jackson, President Andrew Jackson’s wife, set her table and the pieces she was known to have used. I find it fascinating to this day how something as common as dinnerware can lead to quite the insight into a person’s personality. So, it was with this flicker of interest that led me to peruse the patterns for all the U.S. President’s, starting with George Washington.

 

“Reservation for 320, now seating!”

 

Nowadays, Presidential dinners amass quite the number of guests, which means hundreds of place settings designed by none other than our First Ladies. However, that was not always the case. Presidential China wasn’t officially ordered until 1817 by then President James Madison for diplomatic usage. At the handsome price of $1,167.23, manufactured in by Dagoty and Honor and shipped directly from Paris, the 30 place settings and matching dessert plates were sure to dazzle any diplomatic representative.

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James Monroe China Pattern via whitehousemuseum.org

 

So, what did George Washington eat on for his daily meals? Well, I’m happy you asked! Most fashionable people, and George dressed to impress, ordered the “Canton” blue and white china for everyday usage. It was called “Canton” due to the place of origin being Canton in southern China where traders brought it back to European markets for purchase. As these weren’t readily made in the Continental States at that time, Washington ordered his from across the pond in London to satisfy his noble needs and wants.

However, after 1772 Washington never again ordered china from England, and an expedition to find a new route to access the famed Chinese porcelain had begun post-revolution, and direct trade between China and the U.S. became a reality. Thanks to Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, in 1790 Washington received his long awaited set of china with the emblem of the Society of Cincinnati on it. Click here for more on the background of the Society of Cincinnati and Washington’s role in it.

Bachelor vs. Married Men china

 

Of course, it’s a hoot when you look at Washington’s bachelor day china. Marriage is a compromise, right? I think Martha had a say in future patterns;-)

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(Bachelor China) Photo via mountvernon.org

And look at this beauty, crafted for Martha with her initials by a representative of the Dutch East India Company. A 1930’s replica is all yours for a mere $550!

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the dining room which inspired all the research.

If you’re ever in the Nashville area, The Hermitage is a wonderful place to stop to delve back into the tumultuous and controversial life of President Andrew Jackson. One can always learn the do’s and don’ts from history!;-)

Thanks to whitehousehistory.org, firstladies.org and mountvernon.org for the wonderful history behind it all!

Happy reading and eating,

KD

Lincoln’s Little Blue Pill

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Photo via whitehouse.gov

“Here, where the lonely hooting owl
Sends forth his midnight moans,
Fierce wolves shall o’er my carcase growl,
Or buzzards pick my bones.

No fellow-man shall learn my fate,
Or where my ashes lie;
Unless by beasts drawn round their bait,
Or by the ravens’ cry.

Yes! I’ve resolved the deed to do,
And this the place to do it:
This heart I’ll rush a dagger through
Though I in hell should rue it!” – “The Suicide’s Soliloquy” published in Sangamo Journal August 25, 1838

Abraham Lincoln is thought to be the author of this poem, and his lifelong struggle with depression is a well documented issue. He reportedly said, “that intensity of thought, which will some times wear the sweetest idea thread-bare and turn it to the bitterness of death” illustrates the straights of despair he held off and fought in bouts until his death.

Lincoln fought valiantly against the depression by keeping in the company of others, telling jokes (sometimes at inappropriate times), reciting mournful poems, and wept openly in public. His law partner and biographer was quoted as saying, “His melancholy dripped from him as he walked.”

Of course, we know little could be done for depression back in the 1800s. However, one physician prescribed a commonly known substance called “blue mass” or “blue pill” to ward against the effects of depression, otherwise known as “hypochondriasis.” Prescribed for an assortment of ailments ranging from toothache and apoplexy to constipation, child-bearing and tuberculosis, the dose prescribed for Lincoln required one pill two to three times daily, and he took them for quite some time, although no one knows for certain the duration of which he took them.

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So, what’s in the tiny “blue pill,” you say? Glad you asked! As a pharmacist, I have to say I was more than curious to find out. Crushed inside a mortar and pestle, pharmacists/physicians combined licorice root, rosewater, honey, sugar, dead rose petals, and… mercury. I’ll give you a minute to take that last one in…

Mercury is a well researched neurotoxin even in small quantities. Of course, back then the physicians were unaware of mercury’s toxic profile, and it was determined that there were approximately 750 micrograms of mercury absorbed into the bloodstream with each pill taken. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deems 21 micrograms to be the most an adult should consume in one day. So, you do the math😉

The side effects of mercury include mood swings, nervousness, cognition problems, irritability along with potential for kidney issues and even death. Lincoln’s outbursts and rage were recently studied through written accounts by his friends and lawyers who traveled with him on his circuits. One cited, Lincoln became “so angry that he looked like Lucifer in an uncontrollable rage.” Another associate stated Lincoln’s face displayed anger as “lurid with majestic and terrifying wrath.” He was also noted as jumping up and leaving the room or house abruptly for no apparent reason and laughing and inappropriate times.

All signs of neurological mercury poisoning, the researchers can not definitively test for it without a hair sample. However, the symptoms fit according to some physicians, and in my medical background, his symptoms smack of mercury toxicity. The most remarkable point to make is Lincoln’s complete turnaround when it came to his demeanor during the U.S. Civil War after he was elected into office.

“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you…. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it.” -Lincoln’s Inaugural Address via whitehouse.gov

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Photo via slate.com

Known as a man carrying the weight of the U.S. on his weary shoulders, Lincoln exuded strength, calmness, and perseverance in the most tumultuous of times. Born February 12, 1809 to a Kentucky frontiersman and raised doing backbreaking work, Lincoln self-educated by voraciously reading any books he could get his hands on. Unable to afford books, he would borrow them. George Washington became a hero of his, and Lincoln even walked twenty miles to borrow a book on the United States.

Intelligent? Yes. Empathetic? Yes. Insightful? Absolutely. Lincoln realized that the little “blue pills” made him “cross” and decided to quit taking them a few months after his inauguration. I, for one, am grateful he did.

Abraham Lincoln was a pained man held up by the empathy for others and love of his country. The weight of the world may have been on his shoulders, but he calmly strode ahead. While no one is perfect, it’s been great to read about this historic figure, and I look forward to my future research on him. How I love the writer’s life!

Sources: theatlantic.com, news.nationalgeographic.com, faculty.washington.edu, whitehouse.gov, lib.niu.edu, and emedicinehealth.com

Happy reading,

KD

Horse-Flies & the 4th of July!

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Stars and Stripes Continental Congress 1777 via history.com

To all the people of the United States celebrating this 4th of July weekend, perhaps among all the hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, baked beans, cole slaw (a Southern girl’s gotta have slaw) and watermelon, you can share a little known tidbit about the history of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

It’s a long held belief that the 4th of July is the day the Declaration of Independence was signed by all participating parties amidst pomp and circumstance, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

‘Gasp’

Okay, now that most everyone that cares has regained a modicum of composure, let me explain. The resolution to declare independence was initially introduced on June 7th, 1776 by Richard Henry Lee. However, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and South Carolina were not yet ready for such an action. The Second Continental Congress delayed voting until July 1, 1776. In addition to the delay, the committee granted permission for a few men to draft a formal declaration in the meantime. With the lead author being Thomas Jefferson, the document was reviewed on June 28, 1776 by the Congress.

On July 1, 1776 formal debate began, and on July 2, 1776 a unanimous vote was passed with only New York abstaining. So, July 2, 1776 is the official day the Declaration of Independence was passed. Even John Adams wrote that the 2nd of July would be remembered for all times.

So, why the 4th, you say? Well, it took a couple of days for the final draft of Thomas Jefferson’s declaration to be passed, and that’s where the horse-flies come into the picture.

Apparently, by some accounts, it was a stifling day with the doors and windows shut. Upon cracking open a few windows, horse-flies inhabiting a neighboring horse stall seized the opportunity for fresh meat and flew into the room, chomping all men alike. It was upon their discomfort that the men ceased arguing and hastened the vote to run free of the biting pests.

In essence, we have horse-flies to thank for the 4th being the day of celebration! Of course, the document wasn’t signed until August 2, 1776 and not by all fifty-six delegates.

So, there you have it! A fun party fact to be talked about between scrumptious bites of food;-)

Here’s hoping for a wonderful 4th!

Happy celebrations,

KD

George Washington Ate What?

portrait_of_george_washington-transparentA well known founding father of the United States of America, George Washington has been dissected, praised, lauded and ridiculed for centuries. His life has been scrutinized on a microscopic level in life as well in death. Multitudes of biographies abound on this man who would willingly give over the power to rule for a simple life on his plantation.

My latest book in The Protectorate series intertwines with the life of Mr. Washington. I’ve devoured historical accounts found in newspapers, word of mouth quotes and books in an attempt to unravel this larger than life person. After all, he was a man.

So, upon my research, I’ve stumbled across some little known tidbits of information that struck me as either funny, sad and even surprise. The journey to learn every last morsel of information on this formidable man has left me in awe and with even more questions.

Today, I wish to pass on some little known morsels of information. Enjoy!

  • In the Fall of 1787, George Washington drew up a contract with a gardener who had an itch for the drink: “if allowed four dollars at Christmas, with which to be drunk four days and four nights two dollars at Easter, to effect the same purpose; two dollars at Whitsuntide, to be drunk for two days, a dram in the morning, and a drink of grog at dinner and at noon.”
  • On the night George Washington passed away, his close friend, Dr. Thornton, rushed to Mount Vernon only to find Washington had already passed away. However, Dr. Thornton wanted to try to resurrect Mr. Washington, “in the following manner. First to thaw him in cold water, then to lay him in blankets, and by degrees and by friction to give him warmth, and to put into activity the minute blood vessels, at the same time to open a passage to the lungs by the trachea, and to inflate them with air, to produce and artificial respiration, and to transfuse blood into him from a lamb.” Now, that’s devotion! Blood transfusions??? Tracheotomy???
  • Obviously, the resurrection didn’t happen as family/friends intervened, and he was peacefully buried in “Washington City” under the Capitol building. Wait! That’s not correct;-)
  • Washington was originally supposed to be buried in Washington D.C. under the capitol building but never got there. He is buried with his beloved Martha at his home on Mount Vernon.
  • George Washington never wore a wig! Even though it was the fashion at the time, he simply powdered his own curly locks. His true color? Reddish brown;-)
  • Washington avoided public speaking as much as possible because it would make his hands shake, not to mention the difficulties of speaking with false teeth. It was reported that he was “painfully awkward when delivering a speech.”
  • Speaking of false teeth, Washington had them, but they were NOT wooden. Instead, they were made of “bone, hippopotamus ivory, human teeth, brass screws, lead, and gold metal wire.” mountvernon.org
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mountvernon.org

  • George Washington was born the first child of a second wife which put him at a disadvantage when his father died. George’s father, Augustine Washington, died when George was eleven. The family estate went to his eldest half-brother Lawrence. Mount Vernon was inherited by Washington in 1761 when Lawrence’s wife, Ann, passed away in 1761 and no heirs were alive. However, he rented Mount Vernon in 1754 from Ann when she remarried.
  • Washington wanted to join the Royal Navy at the young age of 14, but his mother refused. So, he became a surveyor and the rest is history.
  • Washington had a contentious relationship with his mother. “He visited, but out of obligation rather than affection, and the impression emerges that he simply did not like her.” – Washington’s Circle: The Creation of the President by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler
  • Washington was unanimously elected to be President of the United States which has yet to happen since.
  • George Washington enjoyed mashed sweet potatoes and coconut (Yum!), cherry pies, hoe cakes (pancakes made with corn) and string beans with almonds.
  • George Washington popularized the mule in the United States.
  • Washington grew hemp on his plantation. However, it was used for making ropes and sailing canvas, not to smoke;-)

Well, I could go on and on about George Washington. He’s simply a fascinating person and one that helped to begin a country. If you’d like more information on this enigmatic giant, please visit www.mountvernon.org OR visit Mount Vernon in person (there’s really nothing quite like it), The Surprising George Washington by Richard Norton Smith or google to your heart’s content.

Now, I must get back to writing the second book in The Protectorate series! Stay tuned!

 

Happy reading,

KD