If I have to read that one more time…

Edits. I hates them. But not why you think.

Yes, they take for... ever. Hours scribbling on paper, crossing out words, adding others, checking references. My back burns, my eyes ache and that niggly tickling pain creeps down my leg. (Sciatica sucks.)

I've lost count of how many times I sift through my thesaurus looking for that one word - the perfect one - to describe a character's mood, to show how they feel; stomping down the hallway conjures up a completely different image to inching down the hallway. (In this case: her footsteps padded on the carpet runner...)

But rewrites and edits are one of the most important steps in writing. They can take longer the first draft (depending on the quality of the first draft). Some of my stories have three rewrites; others - such has Tomorrow, When I Die - take up to eight or nine rewrites. It depends on how well the story was planned out, how much research was done (or needed doing), whether the story had taken a left turn and wandered off into uncharted territory or, in my case, how ill I was when scratching out the first draft.

There is nothing more annoying - or disappointing - as reading a story with dangling plot lines, sloppy writing or bad grammar. I've seen whole sentences repeated on occasion. I just don't understand how such stories get published - even by the big publishers. It seems to be an acceptable way of cost-cutting for some. <Insert heavy sigh and enormous sad face here.>

But what's the real reason I hate editing?

When I've read through a story for the umpteenth time, the fun and games seem to lose their gloss. It would be different if I could just enjoy the adventure - but no - I have to examine, judge, decide. I have to keep count of how many times a character has 'raised an eyebrow', whether they are sitting down or standing up and ask myself: 'can she really see that if she's hiding under the desk?'

It gets to a point where the manuscript gets slapped on the table and the house shudders with: "I can't take this any more!"

And that's when I know. It is done. It is time for my editor to check for commas and spelling mistakes. I press send and await her report.

I pour myself a cup of tea, nibble on a piece of chocolate and catch up on that series I missed... but not for long.

There's still one more story to finish. A new story. One last adventure for Viola and her friends. I'll miss them. They've taught me a lot. (The good news is the editing funk is not permanent; when I go back and read the stories next year, it will be all new again.)

Now, where are my notebooks for The Illusioneer?

Could Henry Really Eat Chocolate Cake?

Here is that "I-was-going-to-do-a-post-on-Chocolate" post pipped from last week.

I've just finished the seemingly-endless rounds of rewrites and editing for Eye of the Beholder & Other Tales. Several episodes of ferreting down the rabbit hole ensued - fact checking, date of origin checking and following up on 'to do later' notations. All good. No problems.

Then my editor, Sharon, asked: "Would Henry really eat chocolate cake? Was it available in 1889?"

I froze. I know I fact checked it for the first book.

There is a running joke throughout both books about Viola's friend and police surgeon, Henry Collins', fondness for both chocolate and fruit cake. Originally, I wanted to use Red Velvet cake but the earliest recipe I could find was post 1900. The earliest recipe for Devil's Food cake, which used twice as much cocoa (4 ounces) as previous chocolate cakes, was published in 1900. Until then, most chocolate cakes used no more than two ounces of cocoa.

I knew this! But the first chocolate cake recipe? The date eluded me. I took a deep breath and pulled out my research notes. I know I had the information. Somewhere.

A Quick History of the Victorian Chocolate Cake.

The Production of Cocoa.

1764: Dr James Baker produces chocolate after grinding cocoa between two millstones. Cocoa was expensive - mainly due to the cost of processing.

1828: Conrad van Houten developed a process called Dutching - a mechanical method to extract the fat from cocoa liqueur, separating cocoa butter from the cocoa. The cocoa was sold as rock cocoa, which could be ground into powder. This was the first step to reducing the cost of cocoa.

1851: Chocolate was added to boiled sweets, caramels, chocolate creams and bonbons and showcased at the Prince Albert Expo in London.

1879: A new process, called 'conching', was developed by Rodolphe Lindt. This technique produced smoother chocolate which was easier to use in baking.

By the 1890s, chocolate was cheaper to produce. Chocolate desserts were common.

MrsBeeton_copyright2016KarenCarlisleBaking with Cocoa:

Most recipes in the late nineteenth century were for drinks. The first known chocolate cake recipe was not a 'real' chocolate cake, by modern standards. They were yellow or white cakes with chocolate icing.

1847: The first known recipe for chocolate cake was in an American recipe book, Eliza Leslie Lady's Receipt Book. Grated chocolate was added to the cake mix. Essentially, any cake with cocoa added, either into the cake mix or topped with chocolate icing, was known as a chocolate cake. Most were single layer cakes only.

1859: The introduction of baking powder into cake recipes produced lighter, less dense cakes.

1886: Sarah Tyson Rorers produced a recipe for cake, using two ounces of melted chocolate and baking powder.  It was expensive, so not readily available.

1894: The recipe for Chocolate cake No. 3 was published in Mrs Beeton's book.

1897: First recipe for chocolate brownies was published in the Sears and Roebuck's catalogue.

1900: Devil's Food cake used four ounces of chocolate in the recipe.

With a sigh of relief (I knew I'd checked it), I messaged my editor with the information: Chocolate cake was available, albeit not affordable by everyone, in 1886. So the answer to her question was:

Yes, Henry could have his cake - and he would definitely eat it too!

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 Photos:©2016 Karen J Carlisle. All Rights Reserved. If you wish to use any of my images, please contact me.

  1. Brief History of Chocolate. Smithsonian. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-21860917/?no-ist=
  2. Eliza Leslie Ladies Recipt Book. (1847) Hathi Trust: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.32044087429015;view=1up;seq=7
  3. Food Timeline: http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcakes.html#chocolatecake
  4. Food and Drink in American History: A "Full Course" Encyclopedia.
  5. History: Wikipedia Chocolate Cake. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolate_cake

  6. Mrs Rorer's Chocolate Cake: Revolutionary Pie. https://revolutionarypie.com/2014/08/01/mrs-rorers-chocolate-cake/

  7. Royal Baker Pastry Cookbook (1888) https://ia800301.us.archive.org/1/items/royalbakerpastry01roya/royalbakerpastry01roya_bw.pdf

  8. Swiss Chocolate Pioneers in the 19th Century: http://www.lindt.com.au/world-of-lindt/about-lindt/swiss-chocolate-pioneers/

  9. Victorian London: http://www.victorianlondon.org/publications7/beeton-37.htm

1889 sarah tyson rorer lady reciept book 1847 royal baker pastry cook book 1887