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Monday, January 18, 2010

The History of Food by Allison Knight

  I'm fascinated with the history of food; what people ate, how it was supplied, preserved and stored. Okay, since I'm a chemist and also a Home Economics teacher, back when we taught cooking and sewing, the fact shouldn't surprise too many.  However, there is something intriguing to me about this history. Unbelievable are the number of items that didn't even exist a few years ago. More about that another time.
  People have had to eat to live since the beginning of time, and to learn how they went about supplying their food and keeping it available presents some problems, especially to a historical writer.  As a teller of tales, I like to get the facts right, but something as common as food consumption and storage wasn't considered worthy of recording. We have learned some facts, simply from drawings and diaries, or sales records. If a soldier of the 13th century wanted to take food with him into a battle, he had to wrap it in cloth or put it into an animal skin. One of the reasons women went with the men into battle was the need to have them available to cook because an army had to be fed. The men hunted or found the food, and the women prepared it.  Daily! 
  We know the spice trade was developed because the safe storage of food was difficult, if not impossible, so people ate tainted food. Spices covered up the taste. A pleasant thought. After all, nobody knew anything about bacteria, or the process of spoilage.
  While vacationing in Barbados, I took a look at old church records looking for ancestors who supposedly died in Barbados in the 17th century. I couldn't believe the number of deaths attributed to indigestion. After I thought about it, it made sense. A warm climate, no method of preserving food, the obvious overuse of spices. Yep, people would have died from food poisoning. A yucky thought! But think about it. Salt was a precious commodity, so few salted their food. There was nothing like refrigeration. Some localities had winter ice, but only for a short time.
  Sugar was also something only the wealthy had, so preserving fruits in jellies and preserves was only for those who could afford it. Drying food was the method of preference. And, storing food? Imagine today trying to exist without plastic bags, and wrap, inventions from the 20th century. 
  So what did people of earlier times do? We know that very early on, jars and pottery containers were used, as well as animals skins. (I agree - not a pleasant thought). Grains were stored in caves and later in buildings. There were rooms in the castle to keep supplies, and enemies made an attempt to get to those areas where the stores where kept. After all, everyone needed food to survive. Since water was often a source of illness, ale and wine were also stored in jars or animal skins. Barrels came along later.
  Food preservation and storage have certainly come a long way. What would we do without our freezers and our plastic wrappings? We'd have to do like our ancestors did. Hunt and fish everyday, and pray the food we set aside wasn't going to kill us.

Title:  Heartsong
Release Date:  August 2008
Author:  Allison Knight
Author Website: www.AllisonKnight.com
Publisher:  Champagne Books
Genre: Historical romance, medieval romance

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Allison Knight.  Another year is upon us. I can hardly believe it’s 2010 when I so vividly remember the Y2K scare! What did the first decade of this century mean to you?
I've been very busy. We moved further south in '04. Been through three computers. I'm not fond of Windows systems redoing their operating system all the time. I've published six books, written two more, which I'm polishing, served two years as president of our local RWA chapter and lived through three hurricanes. Not bad for a country girl from Indiana.
 Your blog post touched on food preservation of our ancestors. With this in mind, do you have a favorite period of time you like writing about?  
I love the medieval time period, but I also like the early colonial time period as well.  Actually any thing before 1900. Terrible that I can't pin myself down to a certain time.
 Reading about? 
Again, I really like medieval romance, but anything before 1900 is good.
Is there any period of time you would’ve liked to have lived in? Why?  
I've done too much research for my historical romances to want to go back. I like this time period.  Maybe the innocence of the time after the second World War, but certainly not the times I write about. We have too many advantages today that didn't exist years ago.
What are your plans, as far as your writing goes, for the New Year? Any hot releases coming up? 
Battlesong, the sequel to Heartsong is coming in August.  This is the story of the youngest brother of the family and boy, does he get into trouble.  I have a gothic short coming from Red Rose Publishing in March. I'm currently polishing a tale about two very different people, forced to wed by the King, which is a lot of fun. Judith is probably going to be my all time favorite heroine. I'm also tackling another contemporary. So I have lots more going on.
Thank you for joining me, Allison. Is there anything else you'd like the readers to know? 
I'd love to know which one of Rhianna's brothers I should write about next. She has five of them and Arthur's tale is Battlesong. I'm toying with brother number three right now. But I could do the oldest one or perhaps number four.  It's a 'puzzlement'!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Maybe Athletes Don't Rule Our Society Afterall by N.S. Ugezene

As of late, athletes are being held accountable for their actions. Gilbert Arenas gets suspended, Tiger loses a number of his endorsements, Plaxico Burress is sitting in prison and he shot himself...no one will forget what Michael Vick did. He's PETA's public enemy no. 1.

It seems that finally, enough is truly enough. It could be that the major effect of the recession has a little to do with it. Maybe the athletes that get themselves in turmoil are tracked as losses. I mean, Vick's stock sure dropped regardless of him getting a second chance. Race can be driven into the argument if a person really wanted to use it. Our president is multi-cultured but since in our society there is a stigma which makes it hard to identify with one's multi-cultural background, you're either one or the other.

When you factor in that many felt that progress would be made socially with President Obama in office, you now see that the opposite of this hope that race relations would improve is happening. While people like myself wish and try to relate to others outside of my race and ethnicity, it is not so welcoming to other people. Athletes aren't exempt from this either. Racial profiling is happening in sports whether direct or indirect. What is ironic to me is that music seems to be the only thing on Earth that can bring unity amongst all people. This unity doesn't even happen in fiction when a writer attempts to crossover. I find that fiction can either send a reader in the opposite direction or in a direction that encourages the reader to engage in segregative behavior.

With all of this taken into account, you see that athletes don't run things. Writers don't run things. Musicians mean the most to people. People won't let Michael Jackson rest. The media continues to slander him. These are abilities that I am talking about, talents for goodness sakes. This is supposed to be about inspiring people, yet something is getting in the way. I can't pinpoint it simply because I don't know what is really preventing multiple of millions of people from saying a writer is so cool. In sports, there always seems to be maybe one or two symbols of a respective sport at a given time. Muhammad Ali was the sole symbol during his time. Mike Tyson was the centerpiece of boxing in later years. In basketball, Jordan ruled. Before that, there were actually many greats. Now, Kobe is the most talked about and Lebron James is made out to just be his sidekick.

Here's where it gets really good. Now that Tiger got himself in some trouble, who will be the face of golf? Will he still be or will the insistence that he's now a black man cause him to be put to the side? His skin color and facial features gave away that he was black already. Sure he is multi-cultural, being black and Asian. He was once someone that the Asians claimed. Do they want to claim him anymore? And it is like African Americans are reluctant to claim him now. People used to joke about how Tiger seem not to want to be black. Maybe Tiger grew tired of having to present himself a certain way.

One thing that is for sure is that in sports there are standards of conduct that I assume the athletes get irritated with. Just seeing how Gilbert Arenas tried to laugh off the controversy of him having guns in his locker and him telling the media that he just wanted to concentrate on basketball, it becomes apparent that athletes have to go on the deep end just to have fun. Arenas was suspended due to his joking about the incident, specifically after pointing at his teammates gun style, before a game against the 76ers. Here's a joke for David Stern...the man's alias is Agent Zero. Clearly, he loves him some James Bond, 007...get it.

For what it's worth, athletes are losing their power in society. Good or bad? I can't call it. Can you?

N.S. Ugezene, author


 Title(s): Shaun Pascal; Real Thoughts; I Love Honeys, Not NY; The Beginnings of Urbaya (coming soon)

Author: N.S. Ugezene

Author Website

Publisher: Ugez Novels

Buy Link

Note: E-mail me for discount codes. BCasper01@yahoo.com

Thank you for joining me today, N.S. Ugezene. Tell me a little about your latest release.

I have an upcoming release which will be The Beginnings of Urbaya. This novel is staged in Illinois, sometimes in Chicago and also in a city that I made up which is Urbaya. This work showcases tragedy, the ability to keep going in the face of tragedy, and also triumph and transition in life.

Why urban fiction? What's the draw?

Honestly, I don't just stay within the confines of urban fiction. I try to crossover. I feel it is important to try different things and to make my fiction accessible to all type of readers. Unfortunately, I know I can't entice an avid reader of romance but I just let my creative juices flow. I hope that I can grab readers of different genres. I put love, pain. my blood, sweat and tears into writing. I am very passionate about the craft of fiction writing. I seek to know it at every angle.

I would like to change people's tendency to associate urban fiction with stereotypical behaviors. There are actually sophisticated urbanites. Urban lifestyle is diverse to say the least and I feel that urban lifestyle isn't negative. Some people do take it and make it destructive or nonproductive but I am here to put it to good use.

Do you remember your first completed story, even if it wasn't published?

I actually had the story that became Shaun Pascal in 2006. Back then, it was called Pascal's Life. I still have the manuscript. I reworked the story in 2008 and part of 2009. I was even working on various short stories and I still write short stories from time to time.

What was it about and how old were you when you wrote it?

Pascal's Life chronicled things in my life. My life was storybook material. When I reworked it, I drew from some comedy material as well as some philosophical and psychological influence.

What is your writing process? Do plot and plan or just go for it?

I always outline the content. Now, I will do some improvisation and trash many ideas if I feel it doesn't fit. I also think of how to twist and turn the story without trying to go for total impact in certain areas. I try to mirror actual literature because I want there to be something concrete in my work. I don't want readers to say that all I want is to make money and be a Bestseller. I want them to label me as the "Most Creative" or "Outside the box."

Do you write full time or do you have to fit your writing around an evil day job?

I will say that I write close to full time. I am a student. More than likely, I will generate money through the sole ownership of my imprint Ugez Novels.

What does your family think about your writing?

My fiancee really loves to read my stories and my aunt, uncle and mother give me ideas all the time. My mother once said that my novels could be a source of therapy for teens or anyone isolated or reclusive. I guess I have crafted works that have a somber tone and help people to vent. Also, they can help people to think and analyze their life.

Tell me a little about your backlist.

Shaun Pascal, Real Thoughts and I Love Honeys, Not NY will be in my backlist once The Beginnings of Urbaya is released. Lol. All good works in one way or another. :)

Do you have a favorite book that you've written? A favorite character?

Real Thoughts is my favorite because of the variety. I really was able to do different things and it's a collection of stories which uses different types of writing...analytical writing, persuasion, narrative, etc.

When you read for pleasure, who's your favorite author?

I like LaTonya Y. Williams, Arthur Nersesian, K'Wan, Terry McMillan, Jesse Washington, Cecil Brown. There are others but I have to get through their books first before I can determine them as one of my favorites.

What do you do to relax and have fun?

To relax I sit in front of the TV. For fun, I like to play video games..oh. Sitting in front of the TV again. Lol. I do get out and about when I spend time with my fiancee. I enjoy spending time with her and I hope writing helps me take her places all over the world like Spain, Argentina, Australia, and Paris. I really want to travel to see the world and not just be stuck in one place.

Thank you. I've really enjoyed chatting with you!

Thanks, Rie. It's been a pleasure.