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Archive for July, 2007

Tea for Two

Thursday Thirteen

I’m researching tea and tea-leaf reading for another work in progress, so here you go –
Thirteen Things about Tea

1. The art of reading tea-leaves, or tasseomancy, goes back thousands of years to ancient China, when tea was first drunk. The practice developed as a consequence of tea-drinkers interpreting the shapes of the tea-leaves that were left in the bottom of their cups and divining the future from them.

2. Tea-leaf reading has been popular in Europe and America ever since and is one of the easiest forms of divination to practise. All you need is a teapot, a cup and saucer, and some leaf tea, so there is no need to buy any special equipment at vast expense.

3. The tea industry has undergone a renaissance in the past few years, with many more teas now on sale. Green tea, which was once only available from specialist importers is now widely available and celebrated for its health-giving properties.

4. The right cup is important in tea-leaf reading. The bowl of the cup should be nicely rounded, so the tea and the leaves can move freely within it. Straight-sided cups are not suitable, and a large cup can be unwieldy, which might cause you to spill some tea or even drop the cup. The outside of the cup can be as highly decorated or as plain as you prefer but the interior of the cup must be completely plain. Any pattern will confuse your eye and interfere with the shapes made by the tea-leaves. And lastly, make sure the handle of the cup is firmly attached and not too flimsy or delicate. Note: I’m thinking my character might have a wee accident and drop her cup or the handle could fall off.

5. Choose tea without added ingredients, such as tiny strips of orange peel or dried rose petals since they will interfere with the reading. Oh, and size matters when it comes to tea leaves. They mustn’t be too small and they can’t be too big. Just like Baby Bear’s porridge, they must be just right.

6. Tradition states that you should only read the leaves from the first cup of tea that is poured out, which means only one person can have their leaves read from each pot. The main reason for this is that tea-leaves usually flow out of the pot more easily when pouring out the first cup of tea.

7. The process: As you drink your tea, you should try to relax. Think about the question you are going to ask the tea-leaves, if you have one, or simply concentrate on the week ahead or your life in general. Do not let your mind be distracted by current worries or mundane trains of thought. If this happens you must gently bring your focus back to what you are doing.

8. The ritual: Drink virtually all the tea so only a teaspoonful remains in the bottom of the cup. Take the cup in your left hand if you are right-handed and vica versa. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, then silently ask your question or ask for guidance about your future. Turn the cup three times in an anticlockwise direction then turn it upside down in the saucer and drain for thirty seconds. Your cup is now ready for interpretation.

9. Some tea superstitions – To stir the pot counter clockwise will stir up trouble.

10. To made tea stronger than usual indicates a new friendship. To spill a little tea while making it is a lucky omen. And I thought it just made a mess on the counter!

11. If the lid is accidentally left off the teapot, you may expect a stranger bringing bad news. Bubbles on tea denote kisses.

12. Two teaspoons, accidentally placed together on the same saucer, points to a wedding or a pregnancy. If two women should pour from the same teapot, one of them will have a baby within the year.

13. Tea spilling from the spout of the teapot while being carried indicates a secret will be revealed. Undissolved sugar in the bottom of your teacup means that there is someone sweet on you.

The art of tea-leaf reading by Jane Struthers
Chai newsletter (a NZ company that sells tea)

And just as an interesting aside: When Mr. Munro and I visited Cameroun in Africa a group of us visited a local wiseman or sorcerer. He read our fortunes using a crab in a flower pot. We had to ask a question and the movements of the crab when the sorcerer tipped it out of the pot gave us the answer to our question. The sorcerer didn’t speak English but we had a guide with us who interpreted. The process was very similar to that of tea-leaf reading in that we had to think about one question before the crab and sorcerer did their thing.

Are you a coffee or a tea drinker?

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A Whole Lotta Shakin’

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about What Makes the Earth Move
Not what you first thought, I bet! I’ve been researching earthquakes for a work in progress. There are some great myths that explain why the earth moves, and I thought I’d share.

1. India: The Earth is held up by four elephants that stand on the back of a turtle. The turtle is balanced on top of a cobra. When any of these animals move, the Earth trembles and shakes.

2. Mexico: El Diablo, the devil, makes giant rips in the Earth from the inside. He and his devilish friends use the cracks when they want to come and stir up trouble on Earth.

3. Mozambique: The Earth is a living creature, and it has the same kinds of problems people have. Sometimes, it gets sick with fever and chills and we can feel its shaking.

4. West Africa: The Earth is a flat disk, held up on one side by an enormous mountain and on the other by a giant. The giant’s wife holds up the sky. The Earth trembles when he stops to hug her.

5. New Zealand: Mother Earth has a child within her womb, the young god Ru. When he stretches and kicks as babies do, he causes earthquakes.

6. Columbia: When the Earth was first made, it rested firmly on three large beams of wood. But one day the god Chibchacum decided that it would be fun to see the plain of Bogota underwater. He flooded the land, and for his punishment he is forced to carry the world on his shoulders. Sometimes he’s angry and stomps, shaking the Earth.

7. East Africa: A giant fish carries a stone on his back. A cow stands on a stone, balancing the Earth on one of her horns. From time to time, her neck begins to ache, and she tosses the globe from one horn to another.

8. Romania: The world rests on the divine pillars of faith, hope and charity. When the deeds of human beings make one of the pillars weak, the Earth shakes.

9. Central America: The square Earth is held up at its four corners by four gods. When they decide the Earth is becoming overpopulated, they tip it to get rid of surplus people.

10. Assam (Between Banglasdesh and China): There is a race of people living inside the Earth. From time to time, they shake the ground to find out if anyone is still living on the surface. When children feel a quake, they should shout “Alive! Alive!” so the people inside the Earth will know they are there and stop shaking.

11. Siberia: The Earth rests on a sled driven by a god name Tuli. The dogs who pull the sled have fleas. When they stop to scratch, the Earth shakes.

12. Japan: A great catfish, or namazu, lies curled up under the sea, with the islands of Japan resting on his back. A demigod, or daimyojin, holds a heavy stone over his head to keep him from moving. Once in a while, though, the daimyojin is distracted, the namazu moves and the Earth trembles.

13. Latvia: A god named Drebkuhls carries the Earth in his arms as he walks through the heavens. When he’s having a bad day, he might handle his burden a little roughly. Then the Earth will feel the shaking.

Which myth is your favorite? Do you have your own myth to add?

Interview: Emily Gee

Thief With No Shadow by Emily GeeTHIEF WITH NO SHADOW is New Zealander, Emily Gee’s debut book. I caught up with Emily and asked about her recent release.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and your new release, THIEF WITH NO SHADOW.

Me? Well, I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying–everything from ancient Greek to canine behaviour to geophysics. I love to travel, and have lived in Sweden, worked in Scotland, and backpacked in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Currently I’m home in New Zealand and have a job in the wine industry in Marlborough.

THIEF is a dark and romantic fantasy novel. It’s set in a world where magic runs in certain bloodlines and nightmarish creatures live alongside men. The heroine Melke is a wraith and can become unseen. She’s forced to steal in order to save her brother’s life. Unfortunately her theft has devastating consequences….
Read the rest of this entry ?

Back in the Eighteenth Century

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about Life and Sex in the Eighteenth Century

1. Coffee houses were places for men to meet, take refreshments and read newspapers, but even here they got into trouble with the opposite sex. Coffee-house owners were blamed for providing attractive barmaids. A quote, “such tempting, deluging, ogling, pretty, young Hussies to be our Bar-keepers, as steal away our Hearts, and insensibly betray us to Extravagance.”

2. If a gentleman had admired a lady at a ball or masquerade the previous evening, he might request to meet her by placing a newspaper ad. An example from 1754: If the Lady that was at the last Masquerade, dress’d in a white Domino, trimm’d with Purple, a hat of the same, tall and genteel in person, will be so obliging as to favor the gentleman who ask’d her to dance, but was refused, with a line when and where he may have the pleasure of seeing her, by directing for C.G. at the Cocoa-Tree in Pall-Mall, he intends to propose something greatly to her advantage.

3. Many taverns doubled as brothels where a man could buy a pint of ale in the front room, pick up a young woman and take her into the back for sex.

4. Despite its seriousness, veneral disease had become so widespread in the eighteen century that any libertine might expect to catch it. When Boswell’s father shared his concerns with his friend, Mrs. Montgomerie-Cunningham, about his son having contracted pox yet again, she responded casually that “it was now become quite common.”

5. It was not only a woman’s chastity that came under scrutiny in the disciplining of the female body, but also her eating habits. A woman should not appear too healthy or robust as it was considered unattractive. The weak and delicate woman, especially when combined with her intermittent fainting, was thought to be the sort to turn a young man’s head.

6. A young man from a moderately wealthy family could make the choice to indulge in a wide range of sybaritic pleasures: heavy drinking, travelling on the Continent, eating to excess, as well as hour upon hour of sex. Frequent sexual activity was seen to be good for a man’s health – doctors advised that sperm should be dispelled regularly to ensure the smooth running of the humours, thus keeping a healthy balance of one’s bodily fluids.

7. Margaret Leeson, Harriette Wilson and Julia Johnstone were all celebrated courtesans. Their extravagant way of living found them frequently in debt. Once they reached an advanced age and were no longer able to attract wealthy lovers, they wrote their racy autobiographies in an attempt to cash in on their lives as some of the most notorious and wealthy men in society.

8. When the London hangman was arrested for debt on the way back from Tyburn, he was able to buy his freedom instantly with the clothes he had stripped off the corpses as one of the perks of the job.

9. Householders were responsible for the lighting outside their houses. There was no insurance against household burglaries. Insurance pertained only to fire.

10. Procreation was universally regarded as the primary purpose of marriage. In London between one-quarter and one-third of babies died before their first birthday. Only half of all children passed the age of fifteen.

11. Admiration of ladies’ feet was commonplace. The sight of a well-turned foot was recognized as an object of desire and something in which men might take a keen interest. Courtesan Harriette Wilson’s small feet were esteemed by her paramours.

12. Rents were high, but the majority of Londoners expected neither space nor privacy. These were unfamiliar concepts. Tall and narrow with two or three rooms a floor, a typical terraced house might be home to a husband and wife, two to four children, two to four servants including apprentices and lodgers. Rooms were small.

13. River transport in London was essential, partly because the streets were so congested and also because the bone-shaking jolting of hackneys was unendurable. The language of the watermen as they indulged in the tradition of shouting insults across the water was “coarse and dirty”. Many travellers opted to disembark rather than brave the rapids at London Bridge. The water was a deep and roaring torrent and was very treacherous.

Would you like to time travel to Eighteenth Century London?

1700 Scenes from London Life by Maureen Waller
Lascivious Bodies, a sexual history of the Eighteen Century by Julie Peakman

Advice for Aspiring Writers

Writing is hard work. Most people don’t realize how difficult it is and the amount of dedication, determination and sheer sweat that goes into a completed manuscript. There’s no easy way to become published, but here’s a little advice for aspiring writers.

1. Read. Read as much as you can in all different genres. By reading you get a feel for pacing and the things you like or enjoy in a book. A book you don’t enjoy can teach you just as much. Reading helps you keep up with market trends, the things that are popular or you might discover a genre you’ve never thought of writing before. I cannot stress how important reading is to the writer.

2. Write. Sit down every day and write. Make writing a habit. The actual doing is a great way of learning.

3. Join a group of writers. Writing is a solitary occupation. No one can do it for you, but no one understands the trials and tribulations as much as another writer. Romance Writers of America is a good group to join for those who want to write romance since they have chapters all over America. New Zealand and Australia have their own romance writing groups. Romance Divas is an awesome group you can participate in via internet from the comfort of your home. There are other groups available for mystery and science fiction/fantasy writers.

4. Don’t try to copy writers who have gone before you. Dare to be different. Put your own slant on your book. Make it original. Make it your own.

5. Don’t quit the day job. As I said writing is hard work. You have to write the book and then you have to sell it. Following the path of a writer won’t make you rich.

6. Never give up!

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?